Ford Motor Company of Southern Africa has announced a R135-million solar energy project for its Silverton assembly plant in Gauteng.

The move is part of the firm’s plan to develop an integrated renewable energy solution that aims to have the Silverton factory – which produces the Ranger and Everest for domestic sales and export – “entirely ‘green’ and energy self-sufficient by 2024”.

Dubbed “Project Blue Oval”, the plan kicks off with a partnership with SolarAfrica to provide a 13,5 MW solar installation for the facility, which is set to deliver “approximately 30 percent” of the plant’s annual power requirements.

This, says Ford, involves installing “specially developed and locally manufactured” solar photovoltaic carports throughout the facility, using more than 31 000 solar panels. Covering parking bays for around 4 200 vehicles, Ford claims it will be one of the largest solar-carport systems in the world.

Ford SA hopes to “no longer rely on the national power grid or any municipal services” by 2024.

“Our goal by 2024 is to have the Silverton plant completely energy self-sufficient and 100 percent carbon neutral, using an integrated renewable and co-generation energy mix comprising solar PV, biomass, biogas and biosyngas for all our electricity, gas and heating requirements,” said Ockert Berry, vice-president for operations at Ford Motor Company of SA.

“We will also be introducing 100 percent water recycling, and all non-fermentable waste will be repurposed through a pyrolysis system to produce syngas. This is a bold and pioneering step that will transform our business, helping us make an important contribution to reduce our impact on the environment. It will also make our Silverton Assembly Plant both more efficient and more cost-competitive.”