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Mayor Duggan announces plan to convert to solar energy to power all Detroit’s municipal buildings

  • Detroiters can decide whether they want to host solar farms in their neighborhoods 
  • Applications will open July 1, and run through October 2

At tonight’s District 3 Charter Mandated Meeting, Mayor Mike Duggan will lay out his plans to convert Detroit’s municipal buildings totally to solar power as part of the city’s efforts to combat climate change. It is estimated that approximately 250 acres of solar panels will be required for this project. The city is requesting information from solar energy companies, with a decision to be made this fall. 

In 2016, the City of Detroit became a national leader in urban solar power when it built a 10-acre solar site in largely abandoned O’Shea Park. The remainder of the park was renovated into a neighborhood playground. This plan will take lessons learned from the O’Shea site and make Detroit again a leader in this space. 

“President Biden has challenged cities across the country to convert to clean energy. Some cities, like Cincinnati and Chicago, are doing this by building huge solar fields,” Duggan said. “It’s time for Detroit to take this step.”  

While Chicago and Cincinnati are building their solar fields on farmland in other communities, Mayor Duggan will lay out an option to allow neighborhoods and block clubs to apply to host solar farms in their areas. The plan would provide $25,000 an acre to the neighborhood in community benefits and could fight blight by closing off vacant tracts that are the frequent sites for illegal dumping. Solar fields will only be placed in neighborhoods that request them. Solar field applications will be due by October 2. 

Long-time climate activists praised the boldness of the city’s initiative. “The City of Detroit is not immune from the effects of climate change. Here we have seen rising temperatures, devastating floods and other climate crises,” said Briana DuBose, Director of Strategic Community Initiatives at EcoWorks. “We believe that rapidly and equitably decarbonizing the most vulnerable households while driving systemic change is paramount to fighting the climate crisis."  

“Climate Change is a reality, and as Detroiters we have already experienced some challenges. Power outages and floods to name a few,” said Donele Wilkins, President and CEO of Green Door Initiative. “Having the ability to lead in renewable energy by using Solar Panel installation will serve us all in the city. It is the kind of innovation that Detroit does, working together is essential.” 

How will this new plan work? 

  • Solar field sites must be between 10-50 acres. 
  • To start the process, neighbors can fill out a community interest form on the city’s website starting July 1st. 
  • Applying neighborhoods can request to be paired with a non-profit or other solar energy expert (a Neighborhood Solar Partner) to help guide their community in drafting a plan. 

How will the residents benefit? 

For every acre that is assembled, $25K in community benefits will be available for projects in the neighborhood such as: 

  • Park and recreation improvements 
  • Home repairs, such as energy efficiency improvements 
  • Solar power for neighboring homes 

“Deep energy improvements to homes can help lower the energy bills of Detroit residents’ by hundreds of dollars a year in many cases, while improving home comfort and indoor air quality", said Carla Walker-Miller, CEO and Founder of Walker-Miller Energy Services. “We are so excited about this new plan and can’t wait to help neighbors work to build a cleaner, healthier, and more beautiful Detroit.” 

“We will only go into neighborhoods where residents want us there,” said Ray Solomon, Director of Detroit’s Department of Neighborhoods. “If we decide a neighborhood’s proposal is a good fit, we will have conversations with the residents to determine what they want and need to help create more energy efficient and climate resilient homes, or to improve their shared spaces.” 

Next steps 

The City of Detroit has put out a Request for Information from solar developers to help us design projects that will meet the City’s goals. The City has also identified Neighborhood Solar Partners that can be paired up with neighborhoods to provide mentorship through the application process and help them design their community benefits plan.  

Beginning July 1, neighborhood associations/block clubs or groups of at least five neighbors are asked to submit a form, which will be available once live on the City of Detroit’s website at https://detroitmi.gov/, expressing they would like to host a solar site in their neighborhood and the Department of Neighborhoods will contact them to schedule an appointment to see if their site will or could work. Applications will be open through October 2. 

Tonight's Charter Mandated Meeting will be at Second Ebenezer Church, 14601 Dequindre. 

Virtual Options:

  • Channel 21 (Detroit Comcast or at detroitmi.gov)
  • City of Detroit Facebook page at facebook.com/CityofDetroit
  • Zoom: https://detroitmi.gov/MayorsDistrictMeeting   (attendees will be able to raise their hand to ask questions through this option)
The Solar Park at O'Shea
The Solar Park at O'Shea, on Detroit's West Side, is a 2.44 Megawatt solar installation.