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Detroit officials want to turn hundreds of acres of vacant land into solar farms

Soonthorn - stock.adobe.com

Detroit officials want to turn hundreds of acres of vacant lots into solar farms to power city buildings.

The initiative requires a plot of vacant land upwards of 20 acres — a bit smaller than the footprint of the Ford Field complex downtown — to house thousands of solar panels. A city spokesperson said the acres will need to be contiguous.

Erinn Harris is deputy director of Detroit's neighborhoods department. She said neighborhoods that choose to apply and are awarded these solar farms will also get benefits.

“The community gets to decide about their community benefits," she said. "What we're looking at is energy efficient benefits. So, for example, windows or roofs, things like that. But it will be strictly their decision as a community, what they come up with as the benefit to them."

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan is expected to announce the plan Wednesday night and call on residents and block clubs to apply to get their neighborhoods producing solar power. He’ll be taking questions from residents about the program.

Applications for the program will open July 1 and will stay open through October. City officials said solar farms will provide Detroit with clean, renewable energy and reduce city’s carbon footprint.

The City of Detroit and DTE Energy already have one solar power farm on Detroit’s west side in O’Shea Park, where thousands of panels create enough power for about 450 homes, according to a press release.

City officials said now they’re hoping to get solar farms on a total of 250 acres.

“This is not about us going into neighborhoods and saying, you have 20 acres, we must put solar farms here,” Harris said. “This is more about the residents saying, listen, I'm tired of blight in my neighborhood. I'd like to put solar panels on these lots that keep getting dumped on and at the same time helping out the city of Detroit power their municipal buildings.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan's office said he is presenting the plan to the public on Wednesday, June 28, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Second Ebenezer Church in Detroit.

The meeting will also be streamed on the City of Detroit Facebook page and via Zoom.

Briana Rice is a reporter/producer operating out of Detroit.
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