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When I think about solar panel arrays, I usually think of them in more remote places. Miles of panels in straight lines soaking up the rays of the sun in a field or in the desert. Or a few on the roof of a house. But, Detroit is about to get one of the largest urban solar arrays in the country.

Work has begun at O’Shea Park located at Greenfield and Interstate 96 to transform 10 acres of vacant land into 10 acres of solar panels. That’s more than 6,500 solar panels. The panels will generate enough energy to power over 450 homes.

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Construction of this project should be completed by the end of this year.

This project is a partnership between the City of Detroit and DTE Energy. DTE has been in the process moving to more renewable energy sources in the state of Michigan. They have already closed three coal-burning plants in the state, with plans to close eight more in the future.

There have been audits of and upgrades to the homes in the neighborhood to help improve sustainability and maximize cost saving for the home owners. DTE has partnered with Walker-Miller Energy Services to do the edits.

The city will receive over $1 million worth of tax revenue over 20 years from this partnership. It is more than just the tax revenue that Mayor Mike Duggan says he thinks about. He is also trying to figure out how to offload the 10,000 acres of vacant land that the city owns.

“This city has 10,000 acres of vacant land, and we have not done a good job for decades on figuring out what to do with it. When I first went to Jerry Anderson at DTE I said ‘what about using 5 or 10 acres at a time on solar panels,'” said Mayor Mike Duggan.

“Now that we’re making it happen I think it’s becoming more cost effective. I hope we are going to be talking about 5 or 6 more sites and this will be an economy scale. This will be great, were we could build these solar panels around the city and provide power to residents more cheaply and were using the land to good purpose.”

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Along with the solar panels the city is also going to renovate two acres of O’Shea Park. There will be a playground and picnic areas. The city will work with area residents to design the park.

The community will also have job training, literacy programs, and workforce development available to them from these nonprofits; 100 Black Men, Reading Works, Detroit Employment Solutions, Goodwill, and The Greening of Detroit.

There is a possibility that the city will get even more solar arrays in the future.

“This is our first urban solar investment. We’ve got a mile here now, and I think our job is how we can do more of that, and do it more efficiently,” said DTE Energy Chairman and CEO Gerry Anderson. “So this can be part of our energy mix as we go into the future. I’m going to ask my team to take a look at how we can use this as a model for further replication.”

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