Ten years ago, the town of Highland Park, Michigan was struggling to pay its utility bills. So, as part of a debt settlement with the city, the local utility repossessed more than 1,000 streetlights.
Residents were stunned to be left in the dark.
“The only thing left are the stumps of the lights with some of the wires,” says Shimekia Nichols, executive director of Soulardarity, a local nonprofit.
She says residents are worried about safety.
“Residents started lighting the streets using their own porch lights and yard lamps to try to make it safe,” she says.
Some community members have therefore started crowdfunding for new solar-powered streetlights. And they formed Soulardarity to advocate for rate limits and greater transparency from the city.
The organization has since installed 18 off-grid solar street lights around the city, including in a neighborhood called Avalon Village.
“And so these streetlights were a way to bring more light and more hope to this area,” says Nichols.
The success of the project has led to a greater push for locally owned solar power in and around Highland Park – so residents can benefit from lower bills and greater independence from utility public.
Reporting credit: Stephanie Manuzak/ChavoBart Digital Media