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Environment & Climate Change

Highland Park selected for federal community clean energy project

A solar-powered light in Highland Park.
Sarah Cwiek
/
Michigan Radio
A solar-powered streetlight at Parker Village in Highland Park.

Highland Park has been selected as one of 22 U.S. cities for a federal program supporting community-based clean energy.

The three-square mile city within Detroit’s borders has struggled with utility costs and infrastructure. But it’s also launched some unique projects, including community-based solar streetlights that also provide wi-fi.

The goal of the Communities Local Energy Action Program (LEAP) is to help cities gain control over their “clean energy future.” The U.S. Department of Energy will supply technical assistance to help develop plans that foster renewable energy projects, lower utility costs, and decrease air pollution. It also opens the door to potentially significant federal funds.

Juan Shannon is part of the Highland Park Community Crisis Coalition, which submitted Highland Park’s winning application. He also runs Parker Village, a “smart neighborhood development” and community resource center that includes urban and hydroponic farming and a café, and is developing net-zero-carbon housing.

Shannon said the city has already laid a strong groundwork with community solar and other projects, and he wasn’t surprised that Highland Park was selected. “It was like the absolute model of what most of these initiatives are looking for,” he said.

Shannon said the Coalition now needs to hammer out the details of its plan, with the new government assistance. He said Highland Park’s small size gives it a unique advantage. “It could wind up being an extremely huge opportunity,” he said. “It just kind of depends on where we go from here.”

Shannon said the group wants to build on some of the community environmental work that’s already been done, but also “hopefully exploring a potential community micro-grid or different things like that.”

On the LEAP program website, the U.S. energy department said it will partner with Highland Park "to pursue a path toward 100% local, clean, renewable energy.”

Asked whether that’s a real possibility, Shannon replied: “I wouldn’t put it past this group.”

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