Highline Public Schools
15675 Ambaum Blvd. SW Burien, WA 98166

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Highline Public Schools
15675 Ambaum Blvd. SW Burien, WA 98166

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A Village of Supporters and Funders Shines Light on Student-Led Solar Project

A Village of Supporters and Funders Shines Light on Student-Led Solar Project
Four students in front of group of people and screen on stage showing solar panel project.

HHS Solar Celebration & Video Premiere Spotlights Environmental Club's Multi-year Project

Environmental Club leaders Jordan Powers, Mikah Ramsey and Raidon Sann capped off their senior year with a celebration of a monumental achievement: a 285-panel, 100-kilowatt Environmental Club solar system is producing energy on top of the new Highline High School. Club leaders emceed the event, thanking funders, mentors and supporters, who in turn thanked the students for their vision and leadership.

Kicking off the evening event in the HHS theater, Washington State Department of Commerce Director Mike Fong said, "We were excited to support this student-driven project that will inspire a clean energy future for generations!" The Department of Commerce awarded a $110,100 grant that helped with project costs.

The rooftop solar project landed a $125,000 Seattle City Light Green Up Community grant. Seattle City Light Director of Customer Energy Solutions Joe Fernandi said, "Seattle City Light is proud to be a leader in supporting sustainable energy solutions for our region. And we are proud of this project and these young leaders." 

Green Up is a voluntary renewable energy program that allows City Light customers to support Pacific Northwest wind, solar, and other renewable energy projects that generate carbon-free energy.

Highline Superintendent Ivan Duran, School Board President Joe Van, HHS Principal Clint Sallee and Capital Planning & Construction Executive Director Ellie Daneshnia congratulated the students on their vision, community outreach, leadership and collaboration.

How did this project get started?

In the summer of 2020, former club president Nha Khuc, a 2021 graduate, asked, “What would it take to put solar panels on the roof of the new Highline High School?” On June 8, we celebrated Nha and the HHS Environmental Club leaders and alumni who kept asking this question, with her. 

Through 42 Zoom meetings and 11 presentations, during a pandemic, the students enlisted mentors, community members, donors, elected officials, school district leaders and funders, until they got answers and action for the future they were choosing.

How was the solar panel system funded?

The power of student voice, plus patience, persistence, mentors and an amazing village who rallied behind them all contributed to raising the funding to complete their project: 

  • $12,000 raised by students from community members
  • $125,000 in renewable energy credits from Seattle City Light
  • $110,100 in grant funding from the Washington State Department of Commerce
  • $127,500 from Highline’s capital funds
  • = $375,000 approximate Total Cost
Two people smiling and pointing at solar panels on HHS roof.

HHS Environmental Club former mentor Elly Hien-Trinh from Sustainable Burien, and Nha Khuc, 2021 alumna and former Environmental Club president, show off the solar panels on the roof of the south wing of the new school.

How much energy is being produced?

Since the 285 Silfab solar panels (360 watts each) began operation November 16, 2022, they have produced almost 58 megawatt-hours of solar energy, before heading into their first summer. 

The Highline High School solar panel project supports several goals and strategies outlined in the City of Burien's Climate Action Plan. Not only does this project expand renewable energy production and use, it is also an incredible investment that will support greenhouse gas reduction in Burien. Over 30 years the solar system is projected to save more than $340,000 in energy costs.

The Department of Commerce shared a 3-minute video it filmed to spotlight this student-driven project. 

Watch Video

It took a village!

Environmental Club Vice President Mikah Ramsey helped Nha thank a long list of mentors and supporters, including club mentor Elly Hien-Trinh, president of Sustainable Burien; and Mikhaila Gonzalez, for listening to her original idea and supporting the students. Attendees Annie Phillips and Terry Jorgensen of Burien People for Climate Action provided advice, a platform and grant ideas during the project. 

Mentor Elly Hien-Trinh said, "If a young person asks you to listen to their idea, you should pay attention and listen, because it likely is a really good idea."

Many other individuals donated anywhere from $2 to $1000 to kick-start the project for these students who found a mission worth focusing on during the long months of the Covid pandemic. 

The Highline Schools Foundation set up a donor portal when school leaders realized the students’ private fundraising was growing too large. District staff collaborated with the students and mentors to write applications for energy credits and the grant. Highline’s Capital Planning & Construction team paid for the solar panel design and solar energy reports needed to obtain grant funding. The district project manager included club members in project Zoom calls when possible and met them for photos on solar panel delivery day.

Many other community organizations provided a platform for our students' voices or other support, including the City of Burien, Weed Warriors/Nature Stewards, B-Town Blog, South Seattle Emerald and the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce.

The solar panel design was by Hargis Engineers, with installation by Premier Power & Electric, who were both represented at the celebration event.

Other members of the former Environmental Club leadership included Kim Nguyen, Selena Gonzalez and Ruth Assefa, all 2021 graduates who were not able to attend the celebration, but spent many hours in Zoom calls and planning. Thank you!


Photo of five people in a theatre, including 3 students in middle.

Pictured from left to right: Washington Department of Commerce Director Mike Fong, 2022 grads Raidon Sann, Jordan Powers, Mikah Ramsey, and State Senator Karen Keiser.


Large group in theater


Group of people outside HHS theater door