Many utility companies, such as DTE and Consumers Energy, are looking to expand solar energy production on brownfields to reach Michigan’s renewable electricity standard of 15% renewables by 2021. Brownfields are contaminated land areas that are difficult or impossible to use for farmland, residential, or commercial development. While there are benefits to using brownfields, several challenges exist with renewable energy development on brownfields. Working with the Michigan Land Bank Authority, A Dow Sustainability Fellows student team developed some potential solutions to recognize the environmental and economic benefits of solar development on brownfields. The team performed interviews with key stakeholders that hold a wide range of knowledge related to the electricity sector, brownfields, and solar energy development in Michigan.
Municipalities require a substantial amount of energy to provide essential city services to its residents. More often than not, a city’s water treatment services make up the vast majority of energy consumption among city departments. In the City of Ann Arbor, the water and wastewater treatment systems account for 54 percent of total electricity required by Ann Arbor municipal operations (Tripathi, 2007). A Dow Fellows Distinguished Award Team worked with the City of Ann Arbor to determine the feasibility of implementing a micro-hydropower system. Project Report: November 2019
Project Team Members:
- Jacob Hite, Taubman School of Urban Planning
- Lauren Jones, School for Environment and Sustainability
- Eileen Lo, School for Environment and Sustainability
- Kira Tomenchok, College of Civil and Environmental Engineering
- Advisor: Dr. Michael Moore, School for Environment and Sustainability
Mexico City is in a water crisis due to frequent flooding from increasingly intense storms during the rainy season. This water crisis poses imminent health, economic, and cultural consequences for the residents of this region. A Dow Fellows student team participated in a stakeholder mapping project in partnership with their client, Isla Urbana, a social enterprise in Mexico City dedicated to water sustainability through rainwater harvesting, to capture perspectives of those impacted by the City’s water crisis. The team finalized a sustainability strategy for Mexico City’s water sector that Isla Urbana will use to advise the Secretary of Environment.
Working with Doing Development Differently in Metro Detroit, a Dow Fellows student team assessed how the social, economic, and environmental benefits have developed from Detroit’s Community Benefits Ordinance (CBO). CBO’s are tools that ensure that developers confirm the community benefits from a project to prevent harmful development and planning decisions. The team researched large-scale development projects and compared two projects from before and two from after the passage of Detroit’s CBO. They analyzed their data and determined recommendations are needed to improve the CBO process with additional resources being allocated to improve the quality of public participation.
In order to build a more sustainable and socially-just community, decisions regarding urban planning should engage diverse stakeholders. Working with the Eastside Community Network, a non-profit community development organization, a Dow Fellows student team co-designed a green infrastructure plan with community members along the Mack Avenue Business District. The team is utilizing Land.info, a three-dimensional urban design visualization software tool, to aid in designing community green space. The project focuses on empowering the community members through a series of workshops to learn how to use the visualization tool and co-design community space. They hope to use the software to provide a common language for collaborative designing and decision-making and hope the software can be expanded for use in other cases.
The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is a quiet, rural area where you can escape the busyness of urban cities. Population density is low in the Upper Peninsula (UP), making energy transmission costs high and causing electricity rates to be among the highest in the United States. In Baraga, 33.2% of residents live below the poverty line, and a reduction in electricity rates would make a significant difference to them.
College tuition rates are increasing every year, forcing many students to take out student loans. Free Application For Student Aid (FAFSA) is something every college student fills out, but not many truly understand how the process of student loan borrowing works. Michigan student loan default rates are higher than the national average, and women, especially women of color, are disproportionately affected by student debt. With a $5,000 seed grant from the Dow Distinguished Awards competition, a University of Michigan (U-M) student team is co-designing a solution with students to meet their loan literacy needs.
In 2016, Traverse City, Michigan committed to sourcing 100% of the energy used for city operations from renewable sources by 2020. In 2018, the municipal utility Traverse City Light & Power made a similar commitment to 100% renewable sources by 2040. These declarations created opportunities for local energy project development in the region, paving the way for renewables to benefit environmental, social, and economic issues within the community. Renewable energy projects and infrastructure are not new, but communities across the United States are still struggling to find the best models to harness this opportunity, particularly for underserved geographies and communities.
Our Dow Sustainability Fellowship Program team (the Dow team) partnered with the Michigan Environmental Council (MEC) to investigate drinking water quality and affordability issues at the community level to better inform statewide efforts to empower citizens and address water access concerns. The locality of focus, Benton Harbor, Michigan, shares similarities to Flint, Michigan – a city thrust into the spotlight when lead contamination was discovered in its drinking water. Benton Harbor, like Flint, has experienced an economic depression, a strained city governance, and aging infrastructure.
Keywords: water, infrastructure, Michigan Environmental Council, City Planning
A Dow Sustainability Fellows team presented to the Ann Arbor Area Transportation Authority (AAATA) the financial, social, and environmental merits of offering subsidized ride-hail services to residents in areas that cannot be efficiently covered by buses. The team proposed a subsidized ride-hail service, FlexBus. While the research, design, and analysis of this report were conducted specifically for the AAATA, the team expects the information and insight will be broadly applicable to any transit agency considering on-demand ride-hailing.
Keywords: Ride sharing, hailing, transportation, subsidized