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March 16, 2018

UW-Madison students helping Project Home go solar with Re-volv

Written By: Krista Eastman

Equipped with carefully laid plans and a crowdfunding campaign, “solar ambassadors” at the University of Wisconsin–Madison are bringing solar energy to a local nonprofit.

In partnership with Re-volv, a nonprofit based in San Francisco, the solar ambassador student team is crowdfunding part of the cost of installing solar panels on the roof of Project Home, a nonprofit that performs home repairs and energy improvements to the homes of low-to-moderate income residents in Dane and Green counties.

Re-volv operates a revolving loan fund used to help finance the upfront cost of installing solar arrays. Nonprofits that partner with Re-volv use a portion of the energy and cost savings afforded by their solar panels to pay back into the revolving fund over the course of a 15- to 20-year lease. After installation, nonprofits such as Project Home save 15 percent on their energy costs in the first month, and more as time goes on.

“Each nonprofit that goes solar with our current model is predicted to help three more nonprofits go solar over the course of their lease,” says Adam Tholen, the UW-Madison project lead and a mechanical engineering student. “It’s an exponential model.”

For Tholen and the other solar ambassadors – including electrical engineering student Jacob Ng; environmental science students Riley Eklund, Will Nicolson, and Kevin Theimer; and mechanical engineering student Jordan Gmack – serving as solar ambassadors has also served as crash course in communication, or a real-world means of acquiring job skills.

“We’re talking with each other, with the nonprofits, with Re-volv staff,” says Tholen. “We’re organizing events and presenting at board meetings. We constantly have to be active on social media, and all of that has had a huge impact on our communications skills.”

Fundraising for the solar array is underway. RENEW Wisconsin, a nonprofit dedicated to advancing renewable energy in Wisconsin, has already made a significant contribution toward the Project Home solar array.

Help Project Home Go Solar!