6-21-2015 Solar Power Helps Detroit Community Light Streets
Residents of Highland Park, a city almost surrounded by Detroit, received a nasty shock in 2011 when they learned that a utility settlement enabled the utility company to repossess 1,000 residential streetlights. Now, it looks like the city might be able to light its streets again, thanks to solar power.
The last few years haven’t been easy for the Metro Detroit area, including Highland Park. In 2010, Highland Park saw its population fall from 50,000 to 11,000 as carmakers relocated and took jobs with them.
Because of the significant population decrease, the city was unable to pay its electric bills. In 2011 Highland Park reached a settlement with DTE that allowed the utility to remove two-thirds of the streetlights. Soon after that agreement, DTE came and took the streetlights down, including their posts.
Residents and the streets of Highland Park were left in the dark, a dangerous situation for everyone. There is a silver lining to this story, however. From this bleak situation, Soulardarity, a coalition of businesses, faith groups, non-profits, and municipal programs, was formed.
The organization is trying to raise $1.5 million through networking, crowd funding, and community events over a four-year period to install up to 200 solar-powered streetlights in Highland Park. Each light costs $6,500, including assembly, delivery, and installation.
Soulardarity is also working on launching a cooperative of Highland Park residents to oversee the installation of the streetlights.
The first streetlight was installed in 2012, and Soulardarity hasn’t experienced any problems with it. The organization has installed two lights so far. The streetlights use an LED lamp, which uses 40 to 50 percent of the energy of normal incandescent lights.
To keep the streetlights completely off the grid, each light will have a battery pack located just below the LED bulb. The battery packs charge during the day when the streetlights aren’t needed. During the night, the battery packs supply all the power the lights needs to work.
Soulardarity’s goal is to install 200 solar-powered streetlights by 2017. This won’t completely light the city, but it will help light some of the residential streets.
This may not seem like much, but it’s a victory for the organization and Highland Park residents. Slowly but surely, progress is happening, and the streets of Highland Park will be lit once more.