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DETROIT -- The U.S. Secretary of Energy joined city and DTE Energy officials Sept. 16 to welcome a 10-acre solar array to a neighborhood on Detroit's west side.

Projects like this "use clean energy, save money, reduce local air pollution and, I would say, also reduce noise pollution while we're fighting our climate-change challenges," Energy Secretary Ernest Muniz said during a groundbreaking ceremony at O'Shea Playground near Greenfield and I-96.

The DTE Energy installation of more than 6,500 solar panels will provide enough electricity to power more than 450 homes. It is on long-vacant city property that historically consisted of a playground and sports fields.

Mayor Mike Duggan said that as part of the project, about $225,000 is going toward redevelopment of a 2-acre park and playground area for recreation and education.

The energy company describes the installation as "one of the largest urban solar arrays in the United States."

Muniz said that since President Barack Obama took office, the costs of wind and solar energy equipment, as well as batteries and LEDs, has fallen 40-90%.

"That's why … solar is more and more coming into deployment," he said. "It's now up to 1% of our national energy production. That's like a 20-fold increase in these last years, and so it's growing very very fast, and wind is up to over 5.5%."

Duggan said the city owns about 10,000 acres of similar property that it "just can't keep," and several more solar-panel projects are planned.

While the project involved the city and DTE Energy, Muniz said the federal government is providing support through its energy labs to help public utilities with the technology.

"If anything, we are going to be seeing, I am convinced, a continued greater electrification of our urban environments, with many, many benefits, and this is a great example of where we will be going," Muniz said.

He also said the U.S. solar industry currently supports about 200,000 full-time jobs, and another 300,000 are possible in the next 15 years.

Meanwhile, DTE Energy Chairman and CEO Gerard Anderson said that this year, three coal-fired energy plants were retired from the grid, with eight more expected to end operation in the early 2020s.

"And we're going to replace those power plants with a much more modern fleet — cleaner, more efficient," Anderson said. "It'll be a mix of natural gas and renewables — wind and solar, like we see here today."

He said that ultimately, an 80% or more reduction in carbon dioxide emissions is anticipated.

The O'Shea Playground's solar array installation is to be complete by the end of this year.

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