Energy Poverty In Our Backyard: How One Detroit Community Is Leveraging Solar For Affordable Power.

In the fall of 2019, our founder, Alice Chun travelled to a community in Detroit to teach children about solar energy and the story of Solight Design. Armed with a love of kids and the knowledge that this community had fallen upon economic hardship, the experience became a startling way to witness the reality of energy poverty in our own backyard.

Energy poverty in the U.S. is more than a news story to the millions of American families struggling to keep their homes safe and liveable. We take for granted that energy is accessible to everyone, yet millions of families live in energy poverty. The cost of energy in many communities makes energy unaffordable. And, as we have learned, it is a challenge that is rooted in socio-economic disadvantage. 

We experienced this first hand in North End Detroit, where Alice met an amazing group of like-minded individuals organized by Reverend Joan Ross. Reverend Joan, as she is affectionately known, is the Executive Director of North End Woodward Community Coalition (NEWCC). 

 

Reverend Joan Ross and Community

One of the many major initiatives Reverend Joan has led is the utilization of solar power to reduce the high cost of energy. Studies have shown that Detroit has the highest rate of concentrated poverty among the top 25 metro areas. These families, who are just making ends meet, can barely afford their energy bills and will make a choice between food and keeping their lights on. This means children wake up and get ready for school in the dark. And in the evenings, they cannot read, study or finish homework because there is no light. 

With the help of a grant from the Honnold Foundation, NEWCC installed solar arrays on 10 land trust homes. The impact of solar powered homes has reduced energy bills by 50%, helped offset 41.5 metric tons of CO2 a year and helped attract investment to these marginalized neighborhoods.

Alice, Reuben, Kathryn

What makes Reverend Joan truly amazing though, is not just the passion and hard work implementing innovative solutions for affordable and sustainable family homes. It's her deep connection and love for the people and families of these communities. After being Introduced to Alice by National Geographic Explorer, Reuben Salgado, Reverend Joan invited her to Detroit to teach her Light Warriors curriculum in the community’s schools. The curriculum included utilizing recycled solar circuits in workshops which allowed the students to create their own solar lights. In addition to the solar infrastructure being built for homes, these solar lights demonstrated the power of individual, personal light. Reverend Joan understood the power of individual light and the light warrior within and together they reached over 500 students.

 

  

Kid Inspired Solar Lights!

With every amazing person we meet, we continue to learn that every act, every individual action can create a ripple effect that illuminates hope and becomes a catalyst for change. It can start in our communities and neighborhoods. In our own backyards. No matter how small or big, we need to work together to create change, for a better future accessible to everyone. Thank you Reverend Joan for motivating us to do even better.