Light the night: community-owned solar street lamps in Detroit

When Highland Park’s street lights were repossessed, community members took action. Find out how a grassroots group plans to use solar power to make their streets safer.

As one resident put it, “[They] took away our quality of life.”

It’s hard to imagine having to walk through the streets at night without the help of street lamps, but that’s exactly what thousands of residents of Highland Park, located inside Detroit, have been dealing with for years. The city’s debts may have made the streets unsafe and unnavigable, but luckily, its citizens are taking the initiative to light the night– with community-owned solar power.

Next year, a grassroots community group, Soulardarity, will launch a co-op that will own 200 street lights throughout the Detroit neighborhood. In the mean time, they’re busy planning and raising funds to ensure that their community will be safer, more empowered, and environmentally conscious.

“For this particular neighborhood, it’s practical because people feel more safety and security, and it shows anyone can have a light in their neighborhood,” said Soulardarity Co-director Shamayim Harris. “It shows we’re self-sufficient, and we can solve our own problems.”

The first solar-powered street lamp was erected in 2012. Since then, the group has used free community dinners as gathering points to raise awareness and build unity.

Highland Park as a municipality may be in debt, but it is enriched by its motivated, dedicated grassroots community groups.

Praxia Partners (through its initiative, Community Renewable Energy) supports efforts to bring solar power to urban neighborhoods as well as shared solar projects of all kinds, and crowdfunding can be a great way to achieve community-based goals. If you believe in the promise of shared solar, and you’d like to contribute any amount, visit Soulardarity’s crowdfunding page.

About Holly

Holly Jensen is a writer and poet who has worked with nonprofits and businesses for over a decade. She also serves as editor of The Ghazal Page, an international literary journal.
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