Creating a Climate Resilient Detroit: Through Community Owned Renewable Energy
Context: Detroiters get their electricity from DTE, a privately owned energy company that is known for regularly increasing their rates (even during a global pandemic), while simultaneously having some of the worst outage rates in the country. Detroiters are all too familiar with regular summer blackouts that take far too long to be fixed. Due to climate change, Detroit will experience increased regularity of storms and high heat days, resulting in more and more blackouts. High heat days cause higher energy demands from air conditioning, overloading the grid and causing blackouts.
To create a more climate resilient Detroit - meaning a Detroit that is more prepared and able to withstand the impacts of climate change - the city needs to make changes to our energy system. Part of this is changing how we get our electricity, as DTE’s energy supply is mostly through the burning of fossil fuels, which creates greenhouse gases fueling climate change. The other essential change is creating an energy system that is equitable by focusing on providing all residents with affordable access to electricity that is reliable, regardless of extreme weather conditions from climate change.
This activity explores examples of communities creating their own more resilient energy systems, through renewable energy sources (wind, solar, etc.). Students should then think critically about how these examples could be applied in Detroit.
Photo Description: Cass Community Social Services Tiny Homes Project, learn more here.
Goals: Age Group: 9th-12th
Learn about alternatives to our current energy system
Better understand how energy plays a part in climate resilience
Think creatively about how we could change the energy system in Detroit
Supplies: Time: 1 hour
(Optional) Writing utensil + paper
First, take the time to watch this short video on our unreliable energy grid, and how to fix it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5igJv_otlKE
Then, watch this video on how Puerto Rico is using renewable energy to help make their communities more resilient to future hurricanes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-1hPfmCbeGA
Afterwards, answer the following reflection questions.
(Optional): Learn more about a town that has completely ‘gone off the grid’ with renewable energy: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uK-L6vsAMcU
What are some ways power outages (blackouts) happen?
What is a centralized energy system? How does a decentralized system differ, for example a microgrid?
What are the advantages of a micro grid? How can they help in an emergency?
How can microgrids be used to help increase the renewable energy being used in Detroit?
The end of the first video mentions that traditional energy companies often oppose microgrids. Why would they try to stop residents from creating their own microgrids?
What happened to Puerto Rico’s electricity grid because of Hurricane Maria? How did this affect residents? How long did it last for?
How are communities in Puerto Rico using solar panels to make their communities more climate resilient?
How would you use some of these ideas in Detroit? What would microgrids look like in Detroit neighborhoods?