Imagine getting up for work in the morning.
It’s 5am, the sun has still yet to rise, and you have five minutes to make it to your bus stop. As you open the door to walk out the house, you suddenly are staring into pitch darkness. For residents of Highland Park, this was a reality. After the city repossessed 1,000 city streetlights in 2011, the city was left completely in the dark. But by the next year, residents were already plotting to use clean energy from the sun to bring light back.
Thanks to our amazing friends at Soulardarity, a grassroots organization born in 2012 to develop a democratic clean energy system in Highland Park, we honored five amazing people—Cindy, Nandi, Pastor Rick, Paul, and Phillis—with ONE100 awards and solar-powered lights.
Watch what happened when we showed up.
These solar-powered streetlights are exactly the kind of clean energy innovations pushing the world towards 100%. Instead of using energy from the electrical grid, the streetlights draw power from its solar panels and stores it in a battery bank for nighttime. And in the case of Highland Park, they’re giving its residents the opportunity to invest in something that’s beneficial to their city while also gaining co-ownership.
After spending a day in the city, it’s clear the residents are enthusiastic about solar.
“This is a chance for Highland Park to be the first in the country to have 1,000 solar streetlights being maintained by the residents in the neighborhood,” Paul, a local veteran, said while his new solar light was being installed. “We have an abundance of energy right in front of us—solar!”
As she did a happy dance in her wheelchair and let out a childish “Yay,” Cindy Mondy and her daughter couldn’t wait to see their new light installed. “We love it cuz there’s no bill attached. Once you put them up, they’re up.”
While there is no monthly bill to keep the lights on once they’re up, getting them installed is a different conversation. As Soulardarity outlines, installation cost of the solar streetlights range from $5,500 to $6,500, with maintenance costs that run about $100 per year per light. Through crowdfunding, the organization has raised over $4,900, but they are still just shy of reaching their goal of $10K to keep building. Nevertheless, spirits are still high.
Thanks to these lights, going to work before the sun rises in Highland Park no longer has to be done in darkness. Like Nandi, who danced carefree under her new solar light at night, we too are dancing to the beat of a world powered by wind, water, and sun for everyone. 100% for 100%.
Many thanks to our partners at Soulardarity for introducing us to these inspiring people and at Ryter Cooperative Industries for doing all the installations. Photos by Kate Levy.