Questions about Soulardarity? See if the information below can help answer them. If this doesn't do it, click here to ask a question.
- How did Soulardarity get started?
- How much light does a solar streetlight put off?
- How does Soulardarity work to comply with code and city ordinance?
- Do we have an attorney or some kind of representation to resolve legal disputes?
- What are our legal rights to owning the streetlights?
- What will Soulardarity do if someone gets angry about a streetlight being put up after the fact?
- How much does a solar streetlight cost?
- How does that compare to a traditional streetlight?
- How does a solar streetlight work?
- Is it really as reliable as a traditional streetlight?
- How do you deal with the long dark Michigan winters?
Soulardarity formed in 2012 after the repossession of over 1000 street lights in Highland Park. Initially it formed with the idea of using solar power to address the lighting need. Before it became an organization, it started with a crowd-funding campaign to finance Highland Park’s first solar streetlight at 150 Victor St. In the following years it evolved into an organization with the broader mission of community ownership and community planning of the lights and developing a clean, democratic energy system in Highland Park.
Solar streetlights can be designed to put out any amount of light that a traditional streetlight does. The only difference is that it draws power from its solar panels and stores it in a battery bank for nighttime, while traditional streetlights use energy from the electrical grid. The streetlights we have previously installed used 45 watt high-efficiency LED lighting fixtures. You can see what the output looks like at our most recent installation on Avalon St between Woodward and 2nd.
Soulardarity works with multiple departments in the city to be sure we are in accordance with the law. We also work with reputable streetlight manufacturers who ensure that all of their products are in compliance.
Soulardarity works with the University of Michigan Community and Economic Development Legal Clinic, which has provided legal services to community organizations in the Detroit Metro Area for many years.
Streetlights are like any other piece of property. While we are accustomed to thinking of them as municipal infrastructure, there is no reason that other entities cannot get them as well so long as the comply with code and ordinance. Churches, businesses, schools, and other organizations own and manage street lighting. Through the democratic membership process, the community as a whole will have ownership of the streetlights Soulardarity installs and maintains in compliance with code and ordinance.
We work to ensure that every installation is happening with the enthusiastic support of the neighbors. Our goal is for every installation site to have over ⅔ of the affected residents becoming members of the organization and even more to sign-on in support of the project. If there is still a conflict after the installation, we will work with that resident and the rest of the block to find an appropriate solution.
The installation cost of the solar streetlights we have installed and planned so far range from $5,500 to $6,500. The cost of maintenance varies between models. Those which use lead acid batteries, which need replacement every 5-8 years, have higher costs while the models using lithium ion batteries, which last 20 years, are lower. Overall, we are looking at a maintenance cost of $100 per year per light.
Traditional streetlights, which get energy from the electric grid, cost more in installation and long-term costs. They require trenching and a grid connection, which cost more to do than batteries and solar modules for a solar streetlight. Additionally, traditional streetlights require paying for a monthly electric bill and more regular maintenance, while off-grid streetlights only require minimal maintenance and battery replacements. Energy from the electrical grid mostly comes from coal, natural gas, and nuclear - fossil fuels which are going up in price. The technology in solar streetlights is reducing in price, meaning that the cost benefits will increase over their 20-year life span.
Solar streetlights draw power from the sun using photovoltaic modules. That power is run through a charge controller, which regulates the power going into the battery bank. The battery bank stores the power. At night, the battery power is used to run a high-efficiency LED lighting fixture.
Solar streetlights are actually more reliable than traditional streetlights. While traditional streetlights rely on an outdated and under-maintained electric grid, solar streetlights each operate independently. They will function in a blackout, unlike traditional streetlights, meaning that when Highland Park is without power it will still have lit streets.
The solar streetlights we work with are designed for Michigan winters. The battery bank is built to have 5 days of autonomy, meaning that with a full charge they will function even if they get no sun for 5 days. Michigan gets an average of 4.5 sun hours per day, which dips down to 2.5 in the winter months. However, we still get more sunlight than Germany, which has been leading the world’s solar market for many years.