Detroit City Council delays solar farm vote amid concerns from residents

The Detroit city council postponed a vote on part of the mayor's plan to install large solar farms in some neighborhoods after concerns from the public were voiced during Tuesday's meeting.

Representatives on the council opted to delay a vote on creating a solar equity fund by a week. The fund would enable the city to purchase homes in neighborhoods that could be the site of future solar farms, but aren't guaranteed yet. 

The solar farms would be constructed in neighborhoods that are sparsely populated and are common sources of blight and dumping. But before the city can construct the panels, they'll need to purchase the land ahead of construction.

A proposal for three neighborhood solar farms has already been submitted to the city council. It would encompass more than a hundred acres. That first phase has full buy-in from residents who currently live in the selected neighborhoods and have agreed to sell their home.

There are plans to build solar panels in three more neighborhoods - however, uncertainty remains around which neighborhoods could be selected. According to the city, not every homeowner in those areas has agreed to sell their property to the city.

The city council was set to vote on the creation and financing of the equity fund on Tuesday. But several people voiced opinions about the fund ahead of the vote, including some who criticized the overall plan.

"You only see solar panels in rural areas and that's for a reason. They don't belong in cities. It's not good to have them in the community," one individual said during public comments.

Opposition to the panels ranged from people worried about the aesthetic value of solar power and whether the space would be better served for more housing. Another woman was hesitant to believe residents would receive improved energy costs. 

"DTE is already asking for rate increases in areas surrounding these solar farms," she told the council.

But others applauded the deal, saying it would reduce the cost of energy while promoting health benefits and clean energy. 

The city's goal is to build enough solar power to produce 33 megawatts of renewable energy - which would require about 200 acres of land to construct. Paid for with federal funds from the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, the city hopes to purchase parcels of land and lease it to developers.

According to the city, it expects to spend $1.1 million operating the solar farms. 

But before construction can begin, the city must acquire the necessary land. 


Detroit's solar project presented to city council for approval

City leaders appeared before the Detroit City Council to get the solar project approved.

According to a release issued in late June, Detroit has identified 31 owner-occupied homes in possible neighborhoods where solar panels can be built. So far, 28 have signed letters of intent to sell their homes to Detroit.

Those residents will live in limbo until the city moves forward with selected sites - which isn't expected until 2025.

"These are all individuals who have expressed support for the purchase of their home for a solar array but have been in limbo because they don’t know if or when a solar array may come," said Group Executive for Neighborhoods, Ray Solomon in the release.

The city is proposing putting $4.4 million into the solar equity fund, which would pull money from the Utility Conversion Fund. A vote is scheduled for next week. 

Those with a home on the acres mapped for installation will receive up to $90,000 to relocate, while renters can expect 18 months of rent. 

Hosting neighborhoods will receive $25,000 per acre and residents in the range of solar energy farms can expect energy benefits ranging from $10,000 to $25,000 each for things like new windows, roof repairs, thermostats, and back up batteries for power outages.