Solar Outdoor Learning Incentive Program

Closed December 07, 2022, 12:00 AM

Through COVID-19 disruptions, public schools have affirmed the importance of addressing the physical and emotional well-being of students and of providing engaging outdoor learning environments for students. Denver's Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency (CASR) is encouraging public schools to incorporate solar photovoltaic electricity (solar PV) into outdoor learning spaces because they will deliver significant benefits to the city and its residents, including the following:

  1. Reducing fossil fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions in the electric system. The carbon intensity of Xcel Energy’s electric system in 2020 was 0.474 metric tons CO2/MWh. Over 25 years, a 30 kW-DC solar array at an outdoor learning space would avoid about 467 metric tons of CO2 emissions.
  2. Increasing the resiliency of Denver’s energy systems. On-site and community located distributed energy resources (DERs), such as solar PV and battery storage, can be used for resiliency as backup power and for peak control to lower utility bill costs associated with energy and demand charges. Additionally, DER assets can be leveraged by the utility to provide grid services on an ongoing basis during the majority of the time that they are not required for emergency backup power. These grid services include: (1) reducing system peak and localized feeder peak demand; (2) improved renewables integration; and (3) reducing overall system costs.
  3. Reducing utility costs to allow for greater funding towards public education. Lower operating costs can enable more funding to go to the services public schools provide to the community.
  4. Inspiring the next generation of climate leaders to pursue careers in clean energy. Bringing clean energy systems to schools enables students to learn, interact with, and become curious about clean energy technology and careers. It complements Denver’s efforts to create career pathways and enable a just transition to support a climate-resilient and sustainable Denver.
  5. Evaluating strategies that lead to significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. The incentives awarded in this program will serve as valuable case studies for future efforts.
  6. Protecting public health and survivability for communities most burdened by climate change impacts, specifically low-income communities. Emissions of greenhouse gasses cause climate change, and one result of climate change is an increase in temperatures in Denver and, specifically, more days over 90 degrees and for longer durations. Hotter temperatures for longer periods exacerbate chronic health conditions and unhealthy living conditions for people living in low-income communities, which tend to have less green space outdoors and less access to in-home cooling (both are respites from heat). As part of the global effort to combat climate change, and in alignment with the targets set by the Paris Accord, Denver’s goal is to reduce citywide emissions 80% by 2050 to reduce this strain on residents. This program is one of many strategies Denver is implementing to achieve this goal.

To achieve the benefits stated above, CASR is offering a financial incentive for public schools to incorporate solar PV into outdoor learning spaces, funding up to 100% of costs associated with the installation of the solar PV. Without the incentives, public schools are unlikely to incorporate solar PV into such spaces and the ongoing operations and maintenance activities associated with them.


CASR has determined that the SOL Incentive program will reduce emissions and help Denver rapidly and equitably adapt to and mitigate the effects of a changing climate. It aligns with the Legislative Declaration establishing the Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency (Sec. 2-404 D.R.M.C.) as well as the Permitted Uses of Revenue in the Climate Protection Fund (Sec. 2-405 of the D.R.M.C.). 

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

  1. Applicants must be a public school as defined by C.R.S. §22-1-101 that is located in Denver, Colorado. 
  2. Applicants may request funding to support solar PV projects that will be incorporated into outdoor learning spaces that are owned and maintained by the Applicant. 
  3. Applicants may request funding for one or multiple projects in the same application. 
    • D.R.M.C. § 2-406 states that CASR should endeavor to invest fifty percent of the Climate Protection Fund directly in the community with a strong lens toward equity, race, and social justice. Applicants should demonstrate how their proposal advances this objective. 
  4. Applicants must be able to implement and complete project within 24 months from date of contract execution. 
  5. Applicants must have obtained technical expertise and quotes to determine a preferred approach to incorporating solar PV into the outdoor learning spaces. For each installation in the application, please provide: 
    • Quotes and system layout depictions
    • Describe how the solar PV will be interconnected to help offset electricity use at the host-site 
    • Describe any upgrades needed to the host-site’s electrical panel or service infrastructure 
  6. Applicants must submit a budget for each installation, including the following:  
    • Total projects costs (labor and equipment). Applicants should delineate the costs of the various installation elements to the best of their ability (e.g., provide a separate accounting of costs associated with building outdoor learning spaces vs incorporating the solar PV systems). 
    • Additional funding leveraged to support the installation (e.g., cash match, loan, grant, donation, etc.)
    • The amount of funding the applicant is requesting for financial support.
      Note: Incentive dollars can only be used to support installation elements related to solar PV.
    • All prices quoted shall be firm and fixed for the defined SOW and timeline. 
  7. Applicants are required to provide any data and information upon request to demonstrate the efficacy of each solar PV installation and to inform a city assessment of avoided greenhouse gas emissions at each site. 

Evaluation of Applications - Criteria and Weights for Selection

Applicants must submit a plan describing how students at each host site will receive exposure to clean energy curriculum, lessons, and/or career exploration activities. 

The application will be evaluated according to the criteria described below, with the weights allocated to each criterion set forth in the table that follows.  

  1. Community impact and equity – The extent to which the applicant has demonstrated how their proposal advances the goals of D.R.M.C. § 2-406 to invest fifty percent of the Climate Protection Fund directly in the community with a strong lens toward equity, race, and social justice. Additional benefits may include but are not limited to projects located in NEST neighborhoods1 or areas identified as Disproportionately Impacted Communities by the Colorado Department of Health and Environment.2
  2. Cost effectiveness – The extent to which the applicant has demonstrated an ability to leverage additional funding sources to minimize the required support from the Climate Protection Fund.
  3. Clean energy education and career exposure – The extent to which the proposed plan will provide quality exposure to clean energy curriculum, lessons, and/or career exploration activities.
  4. Greenhouse gas reduction assessment – The extent to which the proposed plan will reduce greenhouse emissions at the host-site. CASR will prepare the GHG assessment using data submitted by the applicant, as described in the application.
  5. Teaming plan and workforce standards – Please describe your team and qualifications, and any women and minority owned businesses that are part of your team.  Applicants should also demonstrate, as applicable, how they utilize high road labor standards such as providing on-the-job training opportunities and a workforce from certification or apprenticeship programs; provide benefits such as health care, retirement, and wage standards; use best value/responsible contracting; and have 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 such interviews will take place after CASR has conducted an initial review of submitted applications.  

The city reserves the right to negotiate the total contract amount, and 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. 

Award(s) Notification

CASR encourages applicants to utilize small, minority, and woman-owned businesses on their project team and, where independent contractors are needed, consider utilizing individuals who identify as people of color, Indigenous people, LGBTQ+, people with disabilities, and people whose household income is below the area median.   

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

Selected applicants will receive an award notice via email and should be prepared to collaborate with the city to establish a formal written agreement utilizing the form of the agreement attached to the application.  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.  Note that contracts more than $500,000 require City Council approval and will take longer to process.  Contracts will contain reporting and milestone requirements that must be satisfied before the city will reimburse project costs.  

Submit an Application

CASR’s maximum award expenditure for calendar year 2022 incentives is $3 million. 

Completed applications and required forms/documentation must be submitted via e-mail to Jonathan Rogers at, with the subject line “[Organization Name] - Solar Outdoor Learning Application”.  

Application Form(DOCX, 377KB)

Sample Agreement(PDF, 199KB)

Full Program Description, Application and Supporting Documentation(PDF, 422KB)

About the Office of Climate Action, Sustainability and Resiliency

ASR will evaluate applications received on a quarterly basis.  All required forms and supporting documentation must be included at the time the application is submitted.  The Application Form is included below, and a sample agreement is included as Appendix A to the Application Form.  Please review the sample agreement with the City’s standard language and insurance requirements before submitting your application. 

The mission of the Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency (CASR) is to act with urgency to proactively mitigate climate change by advancing science-based strategies to reduce greenhouse gas emissions on a scale and timeline that align with the recommendations from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; cultivate resiliency in the face of potential climate change-related emergencies; secure an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable city for generations to come; and ensure that the setting of goals and metrics and monitoring of results considers equity.  

On November 3, 2020, the people of the City and County of Denver voted in favor of Ballot Initiative 2A, raising the local sales and use tax by 0.25% to create the Climate Protection Fund (CPF).  The CPF is dedicated to eliminating greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, supporting climate adaptation, and creating new jobs to improve the lives of Denverites.  This program will be funded by the CPF and is intended to address the following allowable CPF uses contained in D.R.M.C. § 2-406:  

  • Upgrade the energy efficiency of homes, offices, and industry to reduce their carbon footprint, utility bills, and indoor air pollution. 
  • Increases investments in solar power, battery storage, and other renewable energy technology. 
  • Job creation through local workforce training and new careers for under-resourced individuals in clean energy technology and management of natural resources. 
  • Adaptation and resiliency programs that help vulnerable communities prepare for a changing climate.