The City and County of Denver will host up to 15 megawatts of community solar gardens on municipal rooftops, over parking lots, and vacant land as part of a signed Master Services Agreement with McKinstry, GRID Alternatives, and Unico Solar Investors. The project is part of the Renewable Denver Initiative, which is supported by a $1 million grant from the Colorado Department of Local Affairs.
As part of the Initiative, the project will help the City move closer to reaching the goals set in its 100% Renewable Electricity Action Plan, while expanding the economic and environmental benefits of renewable energy to more members of the community.
“This Initiative demonstrates Denver’s leadership on climate and innovation despite the financial challenges due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Grace Rink, executive director of Denver’s Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency. “Investments in Denver’s clean energy economy will strengthen our community and address multiple concerns including our carbon footprint.”
The project will center on equity and the economy. At least 10 percent of the solar power generated will be allocated to low- and moderate-income residents, reducing their electric bills. The project will also create a paid training program and employ nearly 20 Denver residents during construction. The training program will be managed by GRID Alternatives, a national leader in making renewable energy technology accessible to low-income and under-resourced communities.
“Renewable energy has the power to lift up communities,” said Adrienne Dorsey, executive director of GRID Alternatives Colorado. “GRID Alternatives applauds the City’s pledge to achieve 100% renewable electricity by 2030 and we are proud to assist in bringing affordable renewable energy, youth education, and workforce training opportunities to the Denver community through these projects.”
McKinstry, a national construction and energy services firm, will design, build, and maintain the solar arrays for the duration of the agreement. “We’re thrilled to expand our work with Denver to continue to serve as a trusted partner in advancing the city’s climate and equity objectives,” said Leslie Larocque, McKinstry’s vice president for energy and technical services for the Mountain regions. “This project will not only expand access to solar across Denver, creating jobs and other community benefits, but also we hope to inspire the next generation of leaders in STEM.”
Unico Solar Investors, a wholly owned subsidiary of Unico Investment Group that develops solar energy facilities, will finance, own, and operate the solar projects. This will help enable Denver to lock-in low, long-term electricity rates for the City’s municipal operations and low-income subscribers. “As a renewable energy developer and investor with a track record of sustainability leadership through the built environment, Unico is in a unique position to help advance the City of Denver’s promise to its residents of a green and healthy Denver for all,” said Adam Knoff, Unico Associate Director and Co-Founder of Unico Solar Investors. “We look forward to working with the City of Denver and our project partners to bring this vision to life.”
The City expects that the project site selection, design, and submissions to Xcel Energy for approval will be complete by early 2021. The systems are expected to be operational by 2022.
— Solar Builder magazine