This blog is the first in a series featuring youth-led initiatives that emerged directly from the Midwest Youth Climate Convergence (held in October 2015) and/or were central to the overarching themes of this 3-day working retreat. Soulardarity works to build energy democracy in Highland Park, Michigan and its neighboring communities through community-based education, community organizing, and community-driven development of clean energy infrastructure.
Soulardarity just installed 4 new solar-powered streetlights in Highland Park, MI! These are the first four tied to a membership structure that is building reserves for maintenance and replacement of the lighting infrastructure. Because we’re using lithium batteries, most of those costs won’t occur for 15 to 20 years. The lights stay at half power until motion-sensors kick them on to full, which helps to preserve the charge in the batteries and let residents know when there’s movement on the block. We’re doing business models around leveraging these reserves to develop community solar and weatherization lending for community wealth-building in low-income communities of color. This is particularly exciting in light of DTE’s unfounded rate increases around LED lighting, the regional coalition of municipalities fighting them, and they the fact that they’re winning.
We now have 56 members and growing. At our first annual meeting at the end of May, the membership will elect our first democratically appointed board. Our present election committee is working hard on the process for member outreach on running for the board, absentee voting, and the annual meeting. In that time, we aim to build up to 50 new members in Highland – 5 for each of the 10 new streetlights we aim to install in 2016. We’ve launched a fundraising page for those lights and need your support! There’s no time like the present to donate, become a member, or sign up to volunteer.
And finally: After over a year of work, surveying over 630 Highland Parkers, research, planning, and modeling, the feasibility for community solar street lighting, created by The Cooperation Group, is nearing completion. The study will not only cover the community ownership model through Soulardarity, but ideas for municipal lighting which could integrate community wifi, improved emergency response, and other critical city services. Be on the lookout for that study. It will not only show the potential for this work in Highland Park, but what cities all over southeast Michigan could do with community-owned solar lighting.
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