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

UW–Madison's solar ambassador student team is crowdfunding part of the cost of installing solar panels on the roof of Project Home.


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 Tholen. “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.

Learn more about the project and donate to the team’s crowdfunding campaign here.


About RE-volv

RE-volv is a San Francisco-based nonprofit that empowers people to take direct action on climate change by crowdfunding solar energy projects for community-serving organizations. Tax-deductible donations made to RE-volv’s crowdfunding campaigns contribute to a revolving fund that provides solar financing for nonprofits and cooperatives around the country. RE-volv raises awareness about solar energy through its community-based solar projects and education and outreach programs. RE-volv is an inaugural member of the White House National Community Solar Partnership and a winner of the U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Catalyst program Business Innovation Award. To learn more, visit www.re-volv.org.

About Project Home

For 46 years, Project Home's mission has been to improve the quality and affordability of housing for low-to-moderate income residents in Dane and Green County, Wis. Project Home performs home repairs, accessibility modifications, and energy improvements to make homes healthier and safer, and to ease the financial burden of high energy bills for people who are struggling financially. The work of Project Home's staff, sponsors, donors, and volunteers is an investment in homes, neighborhoods, communities, and people. To learn more, visit projecthomewi.org.