Highline High School Environmental Club leaders Jordan Powers, Mikah Ramsey and Raidon Sann capped off senior year last week by celebrating the 100-kilowatt, 285 solar panels producing energy on top of Highline High School.

Guest and speaker 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!”

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?” in the summer of 2020 during an environmental internship.

Last Thursday (June 8, 2023), HHS Environmental Club leaders and alumni who kept asking this question with Khuc celebrated their solar success.

At last Thursday’s HHS Solar Celebration, outgoing Environmental Club President Jordan Powers welcomed attendees and introduced speakers, including the Washington State Department of Commerce Director Mike Fong, and Seattle City Light’s Director of Customer Energy Solutions Joe Fernandi. Highline Superintendent Ivan Duran, School Board President Joe Van, HHS Principal Clint Sallee and Capital Planning & Construction Executive Director Ellie Daneshnia thanked the students for their vision, community outreach, leadership and collaboration.

Environmental Club Vice President Mikah Ramsey helped Khuc 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. 

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, The B-Town Blog, South Seattle Emerald and the Seattle Southside Chamber of Commerce.

The Highline High School Solar Panel Project supports several goals and strategies outlined in the Burien 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 of use, the solar system is projected to save more than $340,000 in energy costs.

What Did It Take?

The answers? 42 Zoom meetings and 11 presentations. Patience, persistence, mentors and an amazing village who rallied with funding:

  • $12,000 raised by students from community members
  • $125,000 in renewable energy credits from Seattle City Light Green Up program
  • $110,100 in grant funding from the WA State Department of Commerce
  • $127,500 of Highline’s capital funds
  • = $375,000 approximate Total Cost

The Results So Far?

Since the 285 Silfab solar panels began operation on Nov. 16, 2022, they have produced almost 58 megawatt-hours of solar energy, before heading into summer for the first time. 

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!

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

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.
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.

Photos & text courtesy Highline Public Schools.

Since 2007, The B-Town Blog is Burien’s multiple award-winning hyperlocal news/events website dedicated to independent journalism.