Seal of Dane County County of Dane
Dane County Office of Energy & Climate Change
Four students with a solar panel
Madison West High School students
Charles Hua, Grace Upham, Kari Weiss,
and Nyah Banik.


Students Lead the Way on Solar Power

 “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” -Margaret Mead 

In 2017, a coalition of students and staff at Madison West High School launched a campaign to install solar panels on the school’s roof. This group, West Green Club, created an adopt-a-panel program in which individuals and organizations could adopt and name a solar panel with a $500 donation. Within a year, West Green Club successfully raised over $140,000 under the leadership of Charles Hua, a Madison West High School graduate and Harvard College student. West Green Club has received funding from countless Madison residents, foundations, businesses, and neighborhood associations. As one of the largest youth-led sustainability efforts in Wisconsin, this clean energy initiative, titled Project Solis, will provide students with hands-on learning opportunities in a growing clean energy job market, generate savings in electricity costs that will save taxpayers money, and reduce the school’s carbon footprint. Project Solis has received local- and state-wide attention and has been recognized by many organizations, including Wisconsin State Journal, Sierra Club, and Dane County. 

Since leading Project Solis, Hua, along with other students, parents, and community members, helped found and organize 100% Renew Madison, a group that advocated for the Madison Metropolitan School District to adopt a 100% renewable energy resolution in alignment with the City of Madison’s sustainability goals. Months of grassroots advocacy and organizing culminated in 2,500 petition signatures collected and dozens of press hits – and on April 29, 2019, the Madison Metropolitan School District became the largest school district in the nation to make a commitment to using 100% renewable energy. Hua hopes to spread this momentum throughout Dane County and has already communicated with several city and school district leaders about his vision of a coordinated county-wide clean energy effort. 

West Green Club and 100% Renew Madison hope that their efforts will serve as a pilot program for schools looking to pursue renewable energy. As Project Solis demonstrates that youth across Dane County have the capacity to generate positive, lasting improvements to their communities, 100% Renew Madison proves the value of bringing together different generations of leaders to catalyze local, grassroots change. The success of these initiatives, and the community support they have both demonstrated and generated, continues to motivate these groups to spearhead sustainability initiatives and promote awareness of pressing environmental challenges facing Dane County.


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