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Blueprints to build climate resilience link sun, neighbors

July 14th, 2023 Back to Browse Stories

A Community Foundation grant will help Michigan Interfaith Power & Light partner with Pastor Calvin Glass, at Lord of Lords Ministries in Detroit, to create a model for places of worship to establish solar community hubs. 

During an era of increased power outages, floods and pollution, harnessing solar energy is one way for communities to build climate resilience.  

Two recent grants from the Community Foundation for Southeast Michigan focus on expanding solar access and creating community energy hubs that can provide neighbors with a stable source of heat in the winter, cooling in the summer and a place to charge their phones and medical devices during power outages. 

“These projects provide leverage for BIPOC leaders who have voiced the desire for clean, consistent access to energy, but who have been largely excluded from the benefits of renewable energy due to lack of funds, lack of political will or lack of social links to affluent investors,” says Greg Yankee, director of Arts and Environmental Initiatives at the Community Foundation.  

One grant to the University of Michigan builds on a previous pilot project in collaboration with Family 1st Solar to install a solar-powered rainwater harvesting system at The Joy Project in Detroit. The solar-powered system allowed the urban farm to increase its yield, reduce its water usage and become a gathering place for mutual aid and charging phones during a recent blackout. The Community Foundation’s grant will allow U-M and Family 1st Solar to create a guide that will help other urban farms replicate The Joy Project’s system.  

Another recent Community Foundation grant will help Michigan Interfaith Power & Light create a model for partnering with places of worship to install solar energy systems and create similar climate-resilient community hubs. 

The statewide sustainability nonprofit has partnered with Pastor Calvin Glass, at Lord of Lords Ministries on Detroit’s east side, to implement the three-year grant from the Community Foundation’s Southeast Michigan Forever Fund. The endowed fund offers flexibility to support proof-of-concept projects, like this one, that can lead the way to solutions for our entire seven-county region. 

Michigan Interfaith Power & Light Executive Director Leah Wiste says the Community Foundation’s forward-thinking, multiyear commitment to developing this solar funding and installation model, primarily for congregations of color, will allow the organization to dial in its approach and secure support from additional investors to expand the program in the future.  

Glass, who holds a doctorate in ministry, says he hopes his church — as one of the first Black congregations in Detroit to implement solar energy — will inspire others to follow in its footsteps using the new Michigan Interfaith Power & Light process. 

“My dream is that we are a model for smaller congregations and low-income congregations,” Glass says. “If we can have solar, you also can. You can fight for clean air, a clean environment. You can fight for justice. It can happen in the suburbs, but it also can happen in the city.”

This story first appeared in the Summer 2023 REPORT Newsletter