Ali Dirul. Photo courtesy Dee Dee Dixon LLC
When Ali Dirul launched Ryter Cooperative Industries in 2015, there was no indication of a looming national health crisis that would infect the nation. But by shining a light on lack in urban communities, the pandemic has allowed a local Detroit business to fill a void and bring sustainable energy to the community.
RCI is providing an alternate option to traditional energy sources by bringing renewable solar energy solutions and technology to brighten communities across the city.
“We’ve been doing clean energy work in this area around providing access to solar technology for neighborhoods that are really underserved and wouldn’t normally have access to this type of technology,” said Dirul.
Equipped with a degree in mechanical engineering and physics from the University of Detroit Mercy, the Detroit native aims to use his education to make an impact on his home city.
“I wanted to use my knowledge to bring projects back to the city so that we could actually make our life easier and improve our quality of life. There’s a connection between access to renewable energy and poverty,” Dirul said.
D-Town Farms was one of Ryter’s first clients. They enlisted the company’s help in bringing natural energy to the farm. Looking to build a solar-powered charging station, the seven-acre organic farm is now home to the city’s first off-grid power station.
“That one was kind of proof-of-concept, that you can actually use solar for urban agricultural purposes, or people can use it for emergencies in being able to charge your communication devices,” Dirul said.
Since then, RCI has worked to bring relief to communities in the dark. PowerUp, an initiative that originally launched in Highland Park and allows access to bulk purchasing of solar lighting solutions for neighborhoods, formed in response to the repossession of the city’s lighting from DTE Energy in 2011.
As communities continue to suffer the ongoing effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, the organization has continued breaking energy barriers across the city.
“It did take a hit because many people had lost their jobs and their ability to work, and they didn’t necessarily have the extra income to be able to invest in some of the products. The attention for the residents was diverted more towards immediate need,” Dirul said.
The company has received funding during the pandemic to build a solar wifi charging station for the Equitable Internet Initiative, and to provide emergency energy in the city.
“Avalon Village was one of the groups that we worked with,” Dirul saod. “We received emergency funds to provide repair for some military-grade generators that we retrofitted and deployed out into the community at key spaces to provide some emergency energy for people that may need it.”
The pandemic has helped to establish renewable energy as a potential alternative in access to power, Dirul said. While the world continues to grapple with the lasting effects of the pandemic, energy has become more important than ever.
“Food, water, sustainable housing, and now energy, we see as one of those hierarchies of needs now.”