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Ford invests R135m in green energy project

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Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa has invested R135 million in its renewable energy Project Blue Oval programme based at its Silverton Assembly Plant in Pretoria.

The initiative, run through a partnership with solar provider SolarAfrica, was introduced as part of the American multinational automaker’s vision to develop an integrated renewable energy solution that seeks to have its Silverton Assembly Plant go entirely ‘green’ and energy self-sufficient by 2024, according to Ford.

Project Blue Oval will provide a 13.5mw solar installation for the facility,which will deliver approximately 30% of the Silverton plant’s annual power requirements.

The Silverton Assembly Plant – which produces the Ford Ranger, Ranger Raptor and Everest for domestic sales and over 100 global export markets – will no longer rely on the national power grid or any municipal services. It will use an integrated, renewable and co-generation energy mix comprising solar photovoltaic, biomass, biogas and biosyngas for all electricity, gas and heating requirements.

The project involves installing specially developed and locally manufactured solar photovoltaic carports throughout the facility, using more than 31 000 solar panels.

The covered parking bays, which fit around 4 200 vehicles, will be one of the largest solar carports in the world, according to Ford.

“Ford Motor Company has launched clear objectives to address climate change, which compel us to change our behaviour in profound and lasting ways,” says Andrea Cavallaro, director of operations at Ford international markets group.

“As stated in our 2020 Sustainability Report, Ford is the only full-line automaker in the US committed to doing its part to reduce carbon dioxide emissions in line with the Paris Climate Agreement, and we are working towards stronger vehicle greenhouse standards to reduce our impact on the environment.”

Ford says its future-oriented strategy includes maximising new opportunities created by electrification, self-driving technology and smart mobility solutions. The new Mustang Mach-E and the upcoming all-electric F-150 pickup are some examples of how Ford is creating the platform for a brighter, emissions-free future.

The automaker says it is also addressing the dependence on precious water resources, particularly in water-scarce countries such as SA, as well as reducing and eventually completely phasing out its contribution of waste to landfill.

“An integral part of building high-quality vehicles in an environmentally and socially responsible way is reducing the impact of our operations and supply chains through world-class facilities, innovative manufacturing processes and the most sustainable materials,” Cavallaro explains.

“Renewable energy is at the centre of this focused plan to reduce and ultimately eliminate our reliance on fossil fuels while lowering and offsetting the production of CO2 emissions.”

Aside from the environmental and cost benefits, Project Blue Oval will also bring to life Ford’s vision of job creation, starting with the domestic manufacturing of the solar carports by SolarAfrica, which the company says is expected to create 100 jobs locally.

During the next phases, which are currently being investigated, the introduction of biomass as a source of renewable energy, and the outsourced farming of fermentable biomass plants in rural areas that would support this project, will be instrumental in driving this vision forward – creating employment for a further 2 400 people.

SolarAfrica, one of SA’s large power purchase agreement providers, has developed a bespoke cantilever solar carport for this project.

“The solar project is an important step towards achieving Ford’s broader green energy objectives, and will be an enabler to all other phases of this project given the commercial viability, speed of deployment and simplicity of solar as a service,” says David McDonald, MD of SolarAfrica.

“Our turnkey solution will provide Ford with the peace of mind that the system is installed, maintained, monitored, insured and performing at its optimum, thereby enabling the highest energy savings for Ford’s local manufacturing operations.”

Ford, in partnership with the Department of Trade, industry and Competition, the Gauteng Provincial Government and the City of Tshwane, is currently working on another major project, the Tshwane Automotive Special Economic Zone.

The R3.4 billion automotive hub is designed to help SA’s automotive sector better respond to the demands of the fourth industrial revolution through skills development, the economic upliftment of local communities, and using state-of the art vehicle manufacturing infrastructure.

While the automaker says it will not introduce autonomous vehicles to the South African market anytime soon, it has ramped up plans to develop more connected technologies in all its locally-developed vehicles through the integration of smart mobility and network connectivity features.

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