Skip to main content

Empowering Flint Solar: Exploring an Cooperative Model to Increase Energy Sovereignty

Empowering Flint Solar: Exploring an Cooperative Model to Increase Energy Sovereignty

Decorative: Urban solar panel installation

Flint residents have one of the highest energy burdens in Michigan, spending more of their income on energy bills than most of the rest of the state. Community-level renewable energy has the potential to make energy more affordable for Flint residents while improving environmental health and promoting environmental justice. 

With this in mind, a vision for a solar cooperative in Flint emerged from an energy justice strategy meeting led by community organizations with participation from neighborhood leaders, community members, public health department staff, and faculty from UM-Flint and Kettering University. In a solar cooperative, customers buy shares in solar arrays placed at a community site and receive utility bill credit for the power generated by their panels. 

This research team will assess the feasibility of that vision, positing that a solar cooperative would synergize existing work in Flint to improve climate resilience, increase energy democracy, and bolster the creation of an environmental sustainability plan. The catalyst grant will support benchmarking of comparable community developments and enable the research team to establish and compensate a steering committee composed of environmental, community, and municipal leaders, residents from neighborhoods with space for a solar cooperative, and technical experts. 

The steering committee will represent the views and priorities of end-users and identify obstacles and opportunities. Based on their contributions, the project team will produce a list of end-user priorities and views and a list of potential roadblocks and remedies. The researchers hope their efforts will help Flint make tangible progress toward community solar. 

Project team: Heather Dawson, PI (Biology | UM-Flint); Mihai Burzo, Co-I (Engineering | UM-Flint); Pamela Carralero, Co-I (Environmental Humanities | Kettering University); Shirl Donaldson, Co-I (Digital Manufacturing Technology, | UM-Flint); Karl Hoesch, Co-I (SEAS | U-M Ann Arbor); Mona Munroe-Younis, Co-I (Environmental Transformation Movement of Flint); Stephen Turner, Co-I (Computer Science | UM-Flint); Nayyirah Shariff (Flint Rising)