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Community group sheds some light - and Wi-Fi - on Highland Park

A solar-powered light in Highland Park.
Sarah Cwiek
Michigan Radio

Highland Park now has 18 streetlights powered by the sun. That’s thanks to a community solar group called Soulardarity.

Soulardarity has been installing solar street lights across Highland Park since 2012. That was soon after DTE repossessed all the city’s conventional streetlights over unpaid bills.

Shemekia Nichols is Soulardarity’s executive director. She says the new streetlights provide more than just light.

“They have Wi-Fi access that's open to the community. So all you need to do is just pull up to one of our lights. You will see the guest sign in and then you have Internet access, which is very important to Highland Park,” she says.

Nichols says Soulardarity’s mission has also expanded over the years. She says they’re trying to create fertile ground for community solar and other off-grid power sources to ensure Highland Park residents have affordable, reliable energy.

The group is now working to establish Highland Park as a model for community-run renewable energy projects.

“Our advocacy is to restore the streetlights, but it grew to be a bigger mission as we were trying to just create life and hope for the community in general.”

She says solar and other forms of community-owned and operated renewable energy will benefit the city’s residents, many of whom struggle to pay utility bills.

Nichols says it’s also fighting what she calls “red tape” surrounding community solar projects in Michigan.

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Sarah Cwiek joined Michigan Public in October 2009. As our Detroit reporter, she is helping us expand our coverage of the economy, politics, and culture in and around the city of Detroit.
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