O’Shea solar project creates opportunities, engages community

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While the focus of DTE Energy’s groundbreaking of the O’Shea solar project was rightly on the creation of one of the largest urban solar farm in the United States, beneath the surface are stories of economic development and community engagement.

The site of what was a closed recreation center and park will soon be bustling with energy and activity benefiting

“This is going to do more than just deliver clean energy to our customers,” said DTE Energy Chairman and CEO Gerry Anderson at the groundbreaking. “This is also part of our efforts to spur economic growth in neighborhoods in the city.”

Indeed, there are a number of initiatives that extend beyond installing solar panels. For example, two-acres of the park will be reactivated as a recreational space and an educational component will be developed to help kids learn more about solar energy. Infrastructure will be built on site as well to help manage storm water and keep it from overwhelming city sewers.

Neighbors of the O’Shea solar project will also see an impact. In partnership with Walker-Miller Energy Services, nearly 100 families have received home energy efficiency audits and upgrades since May. Neighbors can also expect to see blight in their neighborhood being address directly through the targeted demolition of vacant and unsalvageable homes.

Finally, DTE is partnering with several non-profit organizations to deliver new workforce development, employment and literacy programs to area residents. Greening of Detroit is also providing training in green jobs, like forestry, agriculture, and landscaping through the Detroit Conservation Corps.

Businesses in the neighborhood are starting to take note and are putting money into improving their facilities. For Detroit City Council Member Gabe Leland, the fortunes of this neighborhood are clearly shifting.

“That’s what this is all about. It’s about building momentum, it’s about being progressive and fighting for development in our community,” said Leland. “The community that saw the rec center close, that saw this park close, they are certainly deserving of big things.”

Detroit Mayor Mike Duggan went so far as to thank the community for their involvement in shaping the project. In the end, he is hoping that the O’Shea solar project can demonstrate a way forward in his administration’s hopes to put more city owned property back to good use in five to ten acre chucks.

“If we can replicate this four, and five, and six, and seven times over this city, we’ll start putting our vacant land to good use,” said Duggan.