Graham Sustainability Institute

A Green Energy Village in Detroit Eastern Market

Project Team

Paul Draus - U-M Dearborn, Behavioral Sciences
Juliette Roddy - U-M Dearborn, Health and Human Services
Wencong Su - U-M Dearborn, Electrical and Computer Engineering
Joshua Newell - U-M School for Environment and Sustainability
Dan Carmody - Eastern Market Corporation
Lydia Levinson - Eastern Market Corporation
Carlos Nielbock - CAN Art Handworks
Janai Gilmore- CAN Art Handworks


Project Summary

This project built a working partnership between researchers from U-M Dearborn and community partners CAN Art Handworks (CAH) and Eastern Market Corporation to evaluate the feasibility and potential impacts of establishing a Green Energy Village (GEV) demonstration project within the Eastern Market District in Detroit.

The team envisioned the GEV and the “up-cycled” windmills created by CAH’s master metalsmith Carlos Nielbock as a way to address multiple interconnected challenges faced by Detroit (and other post-industrial cities), especially those related to energy, environment, economic opportunity, and equity.  The windmills at the heart of the GEV combine pieces of Detroit’s design heritage and offer opportunities for youth apprenticeship, local energy generation, and equitable economic development. 

With catalyst grant support, the team completed the installation of two windmills within the Eastern Market District. One provides public charging stations in the Market plaza, and the other serves as an alternate source of energy for the Market Garden urban farm. Testing and modeling the energy output of the wind turbines, the team established the potential of the design to produce consistent power. The designers and researchers worked closely with intended communities throughout the process to solicit their feedback and generate excitement while determining the viability of the windmill designs in various institutional and community settings. 

In addition to the installation and testing of the wind turbines and submitting a patent application for the design (belonging to CAH), this project was influential in establishing a formal partnership between U-M researchers and community leaders interested in sustainability issues in Detroit. Out of this collaboration arose a greater understanding of the challenges confronting locally-produced sustainability solutions. This project sets the stage for future research into electricity efficiency and supply chain costs for the GEV. Further, it moves the team toward their long-term vision of securing funding to realize the GEV as an affordable, localized, sustainable energy production, enhanced grid resilience, and equitable economic development.

News & Resources

Graham Sustainability Institute awards thousands in grants, Michigan Daily, June 8, 2018

More to the Story, U-M Dearborn Legacy Magazine (Fall 2018) - Highlights this project and three others working in Detroit's neighborhoods

For more details, read the final project report (PDF)

This project received a $10,000 Catalyst Grant in 2018.