Fri. Jul 19th, 2024

Detroit plans to limit the use of solar energy on vacant lots across the city

By meerna Jun25,2024
Detroit plans to limit the use of solar energy on vacant lots across the city

DETROIT (AP) – Patricia Kobylski remembers when her east Detroit neighborhood had a lot of people. There aren’t that many of them anymore – and haven’t been for a long time.

“There are probably only 10 houses on our side of the street right now. It should be 50, 60,” Kobylski, 78, said on Monday after the city announced its plan to bring photovoltaic panels, i.e. blocks of ground-mounted solar panels, to her area.

Detroit uses something it has plenty of – available land – to produce what the city needs – clean and relatively inexpensive energy.

Pending City Council approval, Kobylski’s Gratiot-Findlay neighborhood will eventually see solar panels installed on an area of ​​approximately 23 acres (9.3 hectares). The nearby eastern district will get signs on nearly 41 acres (16.5 hectares), while the State Fair District will get signs on nearly 40 acres (16.1 hectares) of what is currently a mostly vacant lot.

Five other districts are finalists that will also receive solar panels. To participate in the program, resident groups had to submit an application.

The city wants to build solar panels on about 200 acres (81 hectares). The systems would produce enough clean energy to offset the electricity currently used by 127 municipal buildings.

Detroit will use $14 million from its existing utilities fund to cover upfront costs, which include purchasing and clearing the site. The solar fields are expected to ultimately save the city $4.4 million a year.

“We have seen dramatic increases in property values ​​and income tax revenues in other neighborhoods where the city has made investments,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “I am confident that our $1.1 million-a-year investment in these long-forgotten neighborhoods will bring real revitalization to these communities.”

The city touts its Solar Neighborhoods project as a national model for finding solutions to climate change. Duggan unveiled the plans a year ago in response to President Joe Biden’s call for cities to use more solar power while taking advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act, which provides federal tax incentives of 30% or more to cover renewable energy costs.

Last year, neighborhood groups held meetings to consider the possibility of placing solar fields. Those selected will receive between $15,000 and $25,000 in community benefits to cover the costs of energy efficiency improvements. They may choose to take advantage of the benefits of new windows, roof repairs, new energy-saving appliances, new furnaces and hot water heaters, better home insulation, smart thermostats, energy-efficient lighting and a battery backup for interruptions.

Donna Anthony, 63, also lives on the east side and needs new attic insulation, vinyl siding and a new generator. He is also happy that there will be no empty plots or abandoned houses nearby, which often become places for illegal dumping sites.

“When you go outside, you get depressed when you see trash being thrown away,” Anthony said of discarded tires and building materials. “You go out and clean it up and the next day it’s back.”

Under Duggan’s administration, the city made progress in stabilizing and repairing neighborhoods that were deteriorating and in advanced stages of blight. Since 2014, largely through federal funding, Detroit has demolished about 25,000 vacant buildings. Hundreds of others were moved to the Detroit Land Bank, which renovated many of the homes and resold them to families. Dozens of empty plots – left after houses were demolished – are being sold to people who live next door to cultivate and beautify what would otherwise be overgrown, weed-infested eyes.

Safe solar farms can also bring aesthetic benefits to these areas, according to Sarah Banas Mills, director of the EmPowering Community Center at the Graham Sustainability Institute at the University of Michigan.

“There’s not many communities that would say, ‘You know, the only thing that would make this better is a solar farm,’” Mills said. “Neighbors may want to build a photovoltaic farm there to effectively fight against illegal landfills. It’s a really unique way of thinking.”

“In more developed areas that are not currently green spaces, solar energy is sometimes seen as a negative change to the landscape,” Mills continued. “In places that are already industrial, this is an improvement.”

Detroit is home to about 633,000 people — more than a million fewer than the 1.8 million who lived in the city in the 1950s. What Detroit lacks in population, it makes up for in land. Currently, about 19 square miles (49 square kilometers) of the 139-square-mile (360-square-kilometer) city are empty.

“The challenge with solar energy is that it is an industrial investment,” said Anika Goss, CEO of Detroit Future City, a nonprofit focused on improving the lives of city residents through community and economic development. “Unlike trees or any other way of managing stormwater, it has its disadvantages,” she continued. Because the panels absorb solar energy, they can also “create heat islands in places that may already have heat island problems.”

Goss also expressed disappointment that the energy generated by the solar panels will not be used to reduce utility bills for residents of selected neighborhoods.

“I think the checks they’re paying out as social benefit for energy are good,” she said. “They can use it to retrofit windows. They can use it for their own rainwater management. It won’t be enough for a new roof, but it might be enough to put something in to make their own home energy efficient.”

The city says 21 homeowners in targeted neighborhoods have opted for buyouts to allow their homes to be demolished to make way for the signs. Tenants will receive moving costs and 1.5 years of free rent after moving.

By meerna

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