Project Blue Oval: The Ford Silverton Plant’s journey to renewable energy

Date:30 May 2022 Tags:, , , , , , , , ,
/ By Andrew Leopold /

Ford South Africa might not have any electric cars on sale in South Africa just yet, but it is still an industry leader when it comes to clean, renewable energy.

Electricity production at Ford’s Silverton Plant in Pretoria is about to be given a technological overhaul. The objective is for the plant to be using 100 per cent carbon-free electricity by the year 2035. This is thanks to one of the largest solar-power projects in the world. From an environmental perspective, the plant’s shift to solar power will eliminate the equivalent of 20 072 tons of CO₂ per annum.

Over the years, the shaded carports at the Silverton plant have adopted an additional function, with the installation of solar photovoltaic panels on the roofing structure. The 3 610 carports are now distinguished by 30 226 solar panels that supply 13.5 MW of electricity to the Ford Silverton Assembly Plant. This is the equivalent of the power needs of 224 000 light bulbs, or the electricity usage of 12 171 average households over an entire year.

In its current capacity, this translates to approximately 35 per cent of the plant’s total power requirements. In the coming months, the energy sourced from the sun will be steadily ramped up. The intention is for the plant to become an island of clean energy, and for it to attain absolute carbon neutrality (not just its electricity needs) by 2050.

‘With the completion of the first phase of our Project Blue Oval renewable energy programme, we’re delighted to officially flip the switch and begin receiving 35 per cent of our electricity from the solar carports,’ says Ockert Berry, VP Operations, Ford South Africa. ‘This project proudly puts the Silverton Assembly Plant on the map as part of Ford’s commitment to sustainability, as we migrate our energy supply from fossil fuels to environmentally friendly, renewable resources.’

‘Through the long-term power-purchase agreement with SolarAfrica, this project will also significantly reduce our energy costs, thus improving the efficiency and cost competitiveness of the plant,’ Berry says. ‘It’s another big step forwards in modernising our manufacturing operations as we build up to the highly anticipated launch of the must-have product that is the next-generation Ranger later this year.’

The project has taken 599 days – some 35 000 man-hours – to complete; it has supported 121 jobs among the various subcontractors involved in the construction and installation process. Approximately 59 tons of steel and 315 tons of aluminium were used for the locally manufactured solar carports. More than 5 000 metres of medium- and low-voltage cabling was used to connect the solar photovoltaic panels to 120 three-phase 100 kW inverters and eight transformers, before being fed into the Silverton Plant.

Read about other wheels-related stories, here.

This is exclusively an online article, which did not feature in the print edition of Popular Mechanics.

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