Construction Begins On One of Largest Urban Solar Projects in the U.S.

Detroit urban solar project
Western part of the abandoned Packard Automotive Plant in Detroit, an example of the urban decay in the city.

This has been a big week for urban solar projects.  First it was the deployment of solar on high-density urban rooftops in New York city and Washington, D.C. and now a major urban solar project for the City of Detroit.

DTE Energy started construction on one of the largest urban solar arrays in the United States. The project, targeted for completion by the end of 2016, will convert 10 acres of vacant and blighted land inDetroit into a solar array capable of generating enough clean energy to power 450 homes.

“This Detroit solar project will help DTE Energy reduce emissions and provide cleaner energy to our customers, while also helping deliver on our commitment to spur economic growth and prosperity in the neighborhoods we serve,” said DTE Energy Chairman and CEO Gerry Anderson. “Over the next decade, DTE Energy will transform its energy generation fleet, which includes plans to retire 11 aging coal-fired generating units at three facilities built in the 1950s and 1960s, to a mix of modern, cleaner sources. The development of large-scale solar projects is another step in this direction.”

In late March, Detroit City Council approved an agreement between the City and DTE for the redevelopment of this city-owned land as part of a unique public-private partnership. DTE’s O’Shea urban solar project will generate more than $1 million in tax revenue for the City and will create jobs during its construction. DTE also is partnering with non-profit organizations, including 100 Black Men, Reading Works, Detroit Employment Solutions and Goodwill, to deliver new workforce development, employment and literacy programs to area residents.

“This great project is one of the ways the City is developing new partnerships to put our vacant land back to use in a way that strengthens the surrounding neighborhood,” said Mayor Mike Duggan. “What DTE Energy is creating here will help to stabilize and strengthen this community.”

The City of Detroit is also working on several initiatives to help revitalize the community surrounding O’Shea Park:

  • Redevelopment of a two-acre active park and playground area to provide recreation and educational opportunities
  • Creation of infrastructure to sustainably manage storm water and improve environmental quality in the neighborhood and the Rouge River watershed
  • Partnership with the Greening of Detroit for local workforce training in green jobs, such as forestry, agriculture and landscaping, through the Detroit Conservation Corps
  • Partnership with Walker-Miller Energy Services (WMES) to provide home energy efficiency audits and upgrades in the neighborhood, which help improve sustainability and maximize cost savings for home owners; since May, WMES has worked with nearly 100 families in the immediate area
  • Addressing blight through the targeted demolition of vacant and unsalvageable residential structures in the neighborhood

In addition to the O’Shea urban solar project, DTE has three solar installations currently under development in Michigan, including one at the GM Warren Transmission plant and two in Lapeer. One of the Lapeer solar projects will be among the largest operating energy company-owned solar arrays east of the Mississippi River.

DTE has driven $2 billion in investments in renewable energy since 2008.  In 2015, 10 percent of the energy provided by DTE was generated from a renewable source in Michigan – enough clean generation to power more than 400,000 homes. Today, DTE’s renewable energy portfolio includes 12 wind parks and 27 solar arrays in Michigan.

Featured Image Credit: Abandoned Packard Auto Plant By Albert duce – Own work, CC BY-SA 3.0,


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This post was prepared by Solar Thermal Magazine staff.

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