Solar-powered lights come to Highland Park
By Victor L. Walker
Special to the Michigan Citizen
HIGHLAND PARK — A team of citizens and supporters from across Michigan and from as far as New York City gathered Nov. 20 to erect the first solar-powered streetlight in Highland Park.
Business owner and Highland Park native A.J. O’Neil managed the campaign responsible for the new green energy street lights. The goal of the campaign, Soulardarity, is to raise enough funds to purchase as many as 200 streetlights for the HP community and bring light back to the city.
The move toward solar-powered streetlights comes after DTE Energy removed more than 1,300 lights from the city in an effort to reduce its electric bill at a great cost. Residents believe the lack of adequate lighting makes the city unsafe and opens the door to increased crime, many residents say.
“People in Highland Park are no different than people in other communities. We want to feel safe in our community. Proper lighting equals safety,” O’Neil said.
Soulardarity’s plan to illuminate Highland Park and meet its goal is expected to take five years. Optimal locations for the lights will be selected with the help of the community. According to their Web site, Soulardarity hopes having lights in key positions will improve safety, business activity and the image of the city.
O’Neil said that the name Soulardarity reflects the energy of the city and is a play on words, combining solar-power with the soul of the city and the solidarity of the community. “The city shouldn’t shut down after dark. There should be a sense of commerce and activity when the sun goes down,” O’Neil said.
Detroit resident Ryan Oliver, a frequent patron of Highland Park businesses, says, “Not having something as basic as proper lighting can be detrimental to a community.”
Oliver believes having well-lit communities is a preventative measure that can only have a positive impact. “We have to be proactive,” Oliver said. “Why wait until something bad happens before we get involved?”
Each solar-powered light, made by the Holland-based Solar Street Lights USA, is durable, copper free and uses green technology. Once installed, the light incurs very little cost, only needing a replacement of the battery that stores the energy every 10 years at a cost of about $1,100 each.
O’Neil’s vision expands further than the boundaries of Highland Park. “This is only the beginning and Soulardarity can serve as a model for the country,” he told the Michigan Citizen. “I have the city of Detroit on my radar.”
Now that one light has been installed, the journey to get the next 199 ensues. The campaign is just days away from meeting its goal of $6,200 to cover the cost of the first light, but it will take the help of the community to see this project through.
According to O’Neil, Highland Park residents Keith and Diane Hoye have offered to match donations dollar-for-dollar toward the second solar-power streetlight.
Supporters are asked to donate via a Web site set up at www.indiegogo.com/soulardarity. Checks can also be sent to Soulardarity at 45 Candler St., Highland Park, MI 48203. For more information about Souladarity, visit www.soulardarity.com or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org
Victor Walker can be reached at email@example.com