Denver schools' solar grant program puts equity over climate impact

The evaluation criteria for approval of the project weighs "community impact and equity" twice as much as "greenhouse gas reduction assessment."

(The Center Square)- The city of Denver is looking to install outdoor solar canopies for $2.6 million while the application process for the grant focuses on diversity, equity, and inclusion.

The evaluation criteria for approval of the project weighs "community impact and equity" twice as much as "greenhouse gas reduction assessment." The application process has a 100-point total with the highest 30 points awarded to community impact and equity and 15 points to greenhouse gas reduction assessment.

The city's website states, "Please call out any women and minority-owned businesses that are part of your team ... 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 colorIndigenous peopleLGBTQ+People with disabilitiesPeople whose household income is below the area median"

The contract with Denver Public Schools and the city was discussed at the June 5 Business, Arts, Workforce, Climate & Aviation Services Committee meeting.

The contract for the installation of the 110.4 kW outdoor solar canopies will be throughout 11 schools across the Denver Public School District and is part of Denver's Solar Outdoor Learning Incentive Program, according to documents.

The contract runs from June 15, 2024 through June 15, 2026.

The Solar Outdoor Learning Incentive Program can possibly fund 100% of these projects through the climate protection fund according to the city's website.

The school must be located in the city or country of Denver, the project sites must be outdoor, the project should “advance the goals of equity, racial and social justice,” and it must be able to complete the project in 24 months. The school must also provide proof of professional input and expertise, submit a budget and data on the ability to avoid greenhouse emissions and have a student learning plan to teach children about climate and solar energy, among other things, according to the city website.

The Climate Protection Fund was voted on in November 2020, raising local sales and use tax by 0.25%. This program is part of the city's goal to achieve 100% renewable energy by 2030 and provides $40 million to climate action annually.

The city of Denver acknowledged receipt of an email seeking comment but didn't provide a response.