Solar Outdoor Learning Incentive Program

A solar canopy over a completed outdoor learning space

Public schools know the importance of addressing student physical and emotional well-being. One way to do this is to provide engaging outdoor learning environments. Schools can enhance these outdoor learning spaces by adding solar electricity.

These solar outdoor learning spaces have many benefits:  

  • Reducing fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the electric system.   
  • Increasing the resiliency of Denver’s energy systems.   
  • Reducing utility costs for schools. This lets more funding go to programs and resources for students. 
  • Inspiring the next generation of climate leaders to pursue careers in clean energy.   
  • Protecting public health for communities most burdened by climate change impacts.   
  • Evaluating strategies that lead to a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The schools that take part in this program will serve as valuable case studies for future efforts.  

Public schools in Denver can get funding to make this happen. This program will fund up to 100% of the costs associated with installing solar PV, supported by the voter-approved Climate Protection Fund. Without this incentive, we know that most public schools would be unable to install solar.  


Interested applicants must meet the following criteria to be eligible for consideration:   

  • Must be a public school as defined by C.R.S. §22-1-101 located in the City and County of Denver.   
  • Project sites must be outdoor learning spaces that you own and maintain.
  • The project should advance the goals of equity, racial and social justice. Your application should describe how the project can advance this goal. 
  • Must be able to complete the project within 24 months from the date of contract execution.   
  • Must show that you have gotten technical expertise and quotes from experts. For each installation in the application, please provide:   
    • Quotes and system layout depictions 
    • Descriptions for how the solar PV will be interconnected to help offset electricity use
    • Descriptions of any upgrades needed to the site’s electrical panel or service infrastructure   
  • Must submit a budget for each installation, including the following:   
    • Total project costs (labor and equipment). Delineate the costs of the various installation elements to the best of your ability. For example, separate costs associated with building the outdoor learning space and the solar that will go with it. 
    • Additional funding that will support the project, such as loans, grants, or donations.
    • The amount of funding you are requesting for financial support.  Note: This funding is only to support installation elements related to solar PV. We will consider all quoted prices to be firm and fixed for the defined scope of work and timeline.   
  • Must provide any data and information upon request to show the efficacy of each solar installation. This will help us assess avoided greenhouse gas emissions at each site.   
  • Each site requires a plan for how students will learn about climate, solar, or other related topics and fields. 

Evaluation of Applications - Criteria and Weights for Selection

We will evaluate applications according to the criteria described below. Each item carries a different weight in the application, described below. 

  1. Community impact and equity. We must invest at least half of the Climate Protection Fund in community projects that advance equity and social and racial justice. We will evaluate the extent to which your project advances these goals.
  2. Cost-effectiveness. We will evaluate your ability to leverage other funding sources for your project. This helps to minimize the required support from the Climate Protection Fund. 
  3. Clean energy education and career exposure. This program requires outdoor learning spaces to expose students to material about clean energy. This can include curriculum, lessons, and/or career exploration activities. We will evaluate your plan to include this educational component in the project.
  4. Greenhouse gas reduction assessment. We will prepare a GHG assessment using the data that you submit, as described in the application. We will evaluate the project based on how much it will reduce greenhouse gas emissions at the host site.
  5. Teaming plan and workforce standards. Please describe your team and qualifications. Please call out any women and minority-owned businesses that are part of your team. We will also evaluate how your team demonstrates high-road labor standards such as: 
    1. Providing on-the-job training opportunities and a workforce from certification or apprenticeship programs
    2. Providing benefits such as health care, retirement, and wage standards
    3. Using best value/responsible contracting
    4. Having regional targeted and local hire requirements  
Evaluation Criteria  Points 
Community impact and equity 30
Cost effectiveness 30
Clean energy education and career exposure 20
Greenhouse gas reduction assessment 15
Teaming plan and workforce standards 5
Total 100 

The city may request an interview as part of the evaluation process. Any interviews will take place after an initial review of submitted applications.   

The city reserves the right to negotiate the total contract amount. It may award all, some, or none of the requested award. The city is not liable for any costs or expenses arising out of preparation of this application and if selected, may not include any of these costs or expenses as part of its fee, rates, or charges for performing work under the Contract.   

We encourage you to use small, minority, and women-owned businesses on your project team. We hope you consider hiring independent contractors, when needed, who identify as: 

  • People of color
  • Indigenous people
  • LGBTQ+
  • People with disabilities
  • People whose household income is below the area median 

Award(s) Notification

We will accept applications on a rolling basis. We will make award determinations by the end of each quarter. We reserve the right to not award any applications during a quarterly award period.   

If selected, you will receive an award notice via email. Be prepared to collaborate with the city to establish a formal written agreement. The agreement will not be effective or binding on the city until it has been fully executed by all required signatories of the City and County of Denver. Contracts more than $500,000 require City Council approval and will take longer to process. Contracts will contain reporting and milestone requirements. You must meet these requirements before the city will reimburse project costs.   

Submit an Application

Please email Meg McHugh at with any questions. You must include all required forms and supporting documentation with your application. Please review the sample agreement below before submitting your application. 

To apply for funds, please use our new application form, below. Applicants may request funding for one or many projects in the same application. If your application will include plans for more than five separate solar installation sites, you should instead fill out this Application Form(DOCX, 377KB) Word document. Email the completed document and all required attachments to