Detroit-area community reclaims its streets with solar power

Residents of a Detroit-area community left in the dark after a utility settlement are hoping to re-light their streets using solar power.
Highland Park in Michigan, is working to install up to 200 solar streetlights around the city to replace those that were removed by DTE Energy because of unpaid electric bills.
Highland Park, which is nearly surrounded by Detroit, has very much been dependent on its larger neighbor’s failing infrastructure as both cities have seen their populations dwindle. While Highland Park had some 50,000 residents after World War II, the population fell to just 11,000 in 2010 as automakers relocated, taking jobs with them.
With a smaller tax base the city was also unable to pay its electric bills, and in 2011 Highland Park reached a settlement with DTE Energy in which the city agreed to have more than two-thirds of its streetlights removed. These street lights were not only turned off, but decommissioned and even removed from the posts.x3

This came after the city’s failure to pay a $60,000-a-month electricity bill resulting in a $4 million deficit owed to DTE. DTE forgave the debt by repossessing over 1,000 residential streetlights.

From this crisis Highland was formed around the idea of replacing the streetlights with community owned, off grid, solar powered street lights. If the community owned the asset, the corporation could never take it from them.
Over a four-year period, Highland seeks to raise $1.5 million and launches a cooperative organization of Highland Park residents to manage the installation of 200 solar-powered streetlights. This plan makes a lot of sense for Highland Park because it isn’t grid-tied and the lights have no operating cost.

Solar street lights draw in energy during the daylight hours and automatically turn on at dusk. The battery can generate more than enough charge by way of the solar panel even on a cloudy day.

This project could take Highland Park out of its “dark age” while at the same allow the city to be a proving ground for these types of innovative ventures.