Motor City to Solar City Initiative
The Green Door Initiative is pleased to launch a new project, Motor City to Solar City ™ , focused on revitalizing, rebuilding and restoring Detroit using a block-by-block approach. This is a collective team of minority- and women-owned and led organizations committed to serving and improving underserved, overburdened communities.
The Motor City to Solar City ™ project will be conducted in phases and serve as a model of what is possible in terms of promoting environmental and climate justice, providing full and fair access to training, and preparing residents for employment in the “green collar” sector. The overall vision is to increase access to climate-smart jobs for local residents and provide a model for replication in other communities in the Midwest and beyond.
Our project is located in a neighborhood on Detroit’s northeast side and our target audience includes low-income and formerly incarcerated residents in and around this neighborhood. The project will (1) house a renewable energy training facility that prepares residents for climate-smart jobs including solar installation (2) be a “go-to” location for residents to access the resources and tools needed before, during and after major climate change events by reclaiming a “shuttered” elementary school. (3) be a “resource hub” to collect and share best practices and tools, and equip youth and our most vulnerable and historically overlooked residents with skills-based training. (4) build community capacity and partnerships, promote knowledge transfer and (5) house a solar assembly and installation operation
Community Benefits & Opportunities
This project will produce many benefits for our community, including:
- Improved Health – Improve Air Quality through the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions and the expansion of clean energy, which lowers asthma triggers and other respiratory ailments.
- Economic Growth – Provide workforce development in the environmental and green collar-sector. Recruit local residents, youth, and formerly incarcerated individuals for jobs and entrepreneurial opportunities.
- Climate Impact – Support decarbonization by the reduction and use of energy producing greenhouse gas emissions. Advocate for the improvement of failing local infrastructure, through the Justice 40 initiative.
- Environmental Justice – create opportunities in the green economy for those that are underrepresented in the industry. Reduce the over exposure of greenhouse gasses to residents disparately impacted by industry and make renewable energy options available to Detroit residents.
- Local Resource Hub Available to the Community - collect and share best practices and tools, and equip youth and our most vulnerable and historically overlooked residents with skills-based training
Michigan has been ranked #1 in the nation for energy job growth according to the U.S. Energy and Employment Jobs Report (USEER). The state added 35,463 energy sector jobs from 2020 to 2021, more than any other state in the nation. Michigan’s job growth boosted total energy jobs in the state by almost 10%. Michigan’s 393,207 energy workers represent 5% of all U.S. energy jobs and 9.5% of state jobs.
Even with the exponential growth of jobs in this sector, Michigan has only installed enough solar to power 173,136 of the 4.6 million homes in the state. This data along with the reduction in solar installation cost by 54% in the last 10 years shows that the demand for training and jobs in this sector will only continue to increase over the next decade.
Motor City to Solar City economic impact outcomes include:
- Increase the number of underserved residents trained as solar installers
- Increase the number of jobs created in the energy sector by helping companies meet their labor demands
- Increase the average wage for solar installers from $18 per hour to $25 per hour
- Decrease the average cost of energy bills by 50%
Progress Towards Our Goal
During phase 1 (June 2022 - July 2023) our project focused on creating site selection criteria, conducted community needs assessment, expanded our workforce training program and evaluated project achievements.
Informed Site Selection: The research and analysis conducted by the planning team and technical advisory group helped identify an ideal location for the anchor project. The selected site serves as a catalyst for sustainable revitalization efforts and exemplifies the vision for block-by-block rebuilding in Detroit. The site selection process established a framework for future development and inspired further engagement from stakeholders.
Community Outreach: At the onset of the project, we developed a community needs assessment and interview protocol describing methods and procedures for obtaining and using qualitative and quantitative data to inform our community engagement and outreach methods. All relevant members of the project team were trained on the protocol. Over the past 12 months (during Phase 1), we have engaged the community through community interviews, information dissemination, and workforce development training activities. By actively involving a mixture of grassroots organizations, residents, businesses, and local officials, we were able to ensure that our activities are aligned with current community needs. This inclusive approach has also fostered a sense of ownership and commitment among our residents and all stakeholders.
The community needs assessment included interviews to assess current information needs, perceptions, ways in which people would like to be involved and engaged, most frequently used information sources, and perceptions regarding exposure to pollutants and related health risks, among other factors. We compiled and used the interview results, along with quantitative data, to create a project-specific community engagement plan describing our outreach and engagement approach. Based on the expressed needs and concerns, our outreach and engagement efforts will continue to focus on three primary areas: (1) informing and educating residents of opportunities to reduce costs through solar and other means, (2) raising awareness of the availability and access to grants and other funding opportunities, and (3) continuing to expand and increase access to targeted workforce training and job placement opportunities.
Expanded Workforce Development: In the past 12 months (Phase 1) we have successfully piloted our solar training program with a small number of our recent graduates, alumni and community residents. Through this pilot we have added 2 solar companies to our employer advisory council, learned how to best construct our solar curriculum so that it not only meets the employers needs but our students' learning level and have increased the local labor pool for solar technicians which has allowed our employers to take on more contracts, creating more jobs.
Energy Demonstration House: Over the past 12 months our goal has been to explore how to make energy and housing truly affordable for those who are the most energy & housing insecure. Our process started with the purchase and renovation of a house in our neighborhood on the northeast side of Detroit. We were able to purchase the demonstration house with support from the Department of Energy.
The students in our workforce program were able to gain hands-on training through the renovation of the house. Our instructors worked with the students to teach them various skills in the house including weatherization, construction, introduction to electrical and solar. Students learned how a house’s building envelope affects the flow of energy through a house and how to mitigate energy loss through energy audits and weatherization.
The successful remodeling of this house showcases how implementing weatherization measures, installing solar panels, and adopting various energy-efficient technologies can make housing more affordable for energy insecure populations which include low-income residents and formerly incarcerated individuals. The home is currently occupied by a formerly incarcerated resident and his family. This home served as a tangible example of sustainable practices and empowered the community with knowledge and access to clean energy technologies.
City of Detroit Support
Currently, GDI is participating in the Mayor’s plan to convert 250 acres of land in the city to solar farms. GDI will be providing technical support to various neighborhoods to help them access the funding for solar the city will provide to qualified neighborhoods. Also, Mayor Duggan has given his support to our Motor City to Solar City plan and support to our targeted neighborhood for all things solar.
Phase 1: Our Motor City to Solar City Energy Hub Amenities
- Renewable energy training facility: Classroom space for our workforce training program, roughly 100 individuals plus hands on space
- Office Space: Green Door Initiative main office will be located in this building
- Community Space: be a “go-to” location for residents to access the resources, tools and shelter needed before, during and after major climate change events. Be a “resource hub” to collect and share best practices and tools, equip youth and our most vulnerable and historically overlooked residents.
- Light Industry: A state-of-the-art light industry assembly plant for solar panel assembly will be a highly specialized facility designed to efficiently assemble solar panels. It will encompass an advanced production processes and technologies to ensure precision, quality, and scalability
Phase 2 (August 2023 - July 2025)
- Acquisition/Site control of our targeted building that will serve as the community energy hub. Once acquired start renovation process
- Scale of renewable energy workforce training program to serve 100 residents a year in order to meet labor market demand.
- Increase the number of houses that are solar ready in Detroit: we will increase the number of residential energy audits performed and provide homes with weatherization upgrades. With the goal of servicing 60 residents/buildings
- Community Solar Workshops: Organize workshops specifically focused on solar installations for individual homes. Provide guidance on how to choose the right system, select reputable installers, and navigate the installation process.
- Community Solar Financing Program: Establish partnerships for a community financing program that allows residents to pay for their solar installations through manageable monthly payments.
Phase 3 (August 2025 - July 2027)
- Complete building renovation process and Grand Opening
- Expand solar installation projects to services homes outside of or targeted neighborhood
- Continue outreach and stakeholder engagement efforts.
- Continue to evaluate programs and document best practices, successes, and areas for continual improvement.
Corporate and Community Partners
- Department of Energy
- APEX Direct
- City of Detroit
- US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)
- State of Michigan (EGLG)
- Crown Family Philanthropies
We are grateful to our corporate allies that have partnered with us to ensure that this vision for a city that has such a prominent identity like Detroit can become reinvigorated with new purpose -- to become a beacon of renewable, green, urban living for communities across the united states. If you would like to donate to this endeavor, you can do so by clicking this link and helping our grass efforts campaign and help us to one step closer to our shared goal of a greener tomorrow.
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