A 15-megawatt equity-driven community solar garden is being developed by McKinstry energy services firm in partnership with Denver city and county. The new garden, which will be constructed on government rooftops, parking lots, and on vacant parcels of land, is part of the Renewable Denver Initiative. This program set a goal for the city and county outlined in the 100 percent Renewable Electricity Action Plan to have the city running entirely on clean, renewable energy sources by 2030.
According to the executive director of the city’s Office of Climate Action Grace Rink, the Renewable Denver Initiative spotlights new innovations that have overcome the financial difficulties created by the COVID-19 pandemic. He also stated that the equity-driven community solar garden will boost the city’s community and offer solutions to concerns regarding carbon emissions.
To focus on equity, 10% of the energy generated by the new gardens will be offered to low to middle-income residents. All participants in the community solar program will benefit from reduced utility bills each month. Additional units of the solar program will be offered to commercial customers, who will drive the bulk of the project.
Despite the complex issue of the COVID-19 pandemic, the project will create jobs for 20 Denver locals during construction. These individuals will also undergo a paid training program that will be led by GRID Alternatives known for its strides in making community solar accessible.
McKinstry will oversee design and construction of the solar garden and maintain the arrays over the life of the agreement. Unico Solar Investors, a Unico Investment Group subsidiary, will manage the solar projects, including financing and operating upon completion. Unico will be responsible for bringing in subscribers and managing individual accounts associated with the equity-driven community solar garden.
The City of Denver expects that a site will be selected and the project will be designed and submitted to Xcel Energy by early 2021. Barring any further delays, the arrays are projected to be operational by 2022.