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Powell's in the Press

Contacts: Miriam Sontz
CEO, Powell's Books
(503) 228-4651 x5845
Craig Roethler
Facilities Planning Manager, Powell's Books
(503) 228-4651 x4247
Vince McClellan
Owner, Energy Design
(541) 517-2121

Powell's Books Invests in Solar Energy

One hundred-kilowatt photovoltaic system powers Powells.com and NW warehouse

November 20, 2008, Portland, OR— Powell's Books, Oregon's beloved institution and one of the nation's largest booksellers now has another "largest" claim to add to its list. In December 2008, the company will begin harnessing the sun's power with one of the largest solar electric installations in the State of Oregon.

Project Overview:

  • Who: Powell's Books and Energy Design
  • What: Roof-mounted 100-kilowatt photovoltaic system
  • When: Operational in December 2008
  • Where: Powell's Books NW Warehouse, 2720 NW 29th Avenue, Portland, OR
  • Generation: Approximately 110,900 kWh per year
  • Benefits: Clean, renewable power that will replace about 1/4 of the building's annual electricity consumption
  • Photos: available here
  • Media Visits: Powell's welcomes reporters and news crews to visit the job site and see the PV installation as work is being completed. Please contact Kim Sutton at kim@powells.com to make arrangements.

Construction is well underway on a 100-kilowatt photovoltaic system positioned on the spacious roof of Powell's 60,000 square foot warehouse in NW Portland, a building that is home to Powells.com. The solar electric system, developed and installed by contractor Energy Design, includes 540 solar panels (Mistubishi UD5 series) that will provide about one-fourth of the building's electricity. Powell's confidence in proceeding with a solar installation is largely due to the help of architect Ernest R. Munch, whose firm has been involved with some of the largest solar installations in the West, and through project development guidance provided by Doug Boleyn, P.E. from Cascade Solar Consulting.

Vince McClellan, Energy Design's owner, is enthusiastic about the project. "It has been exciting to work with Powell's to design a system customized for their specific needs. We collaborated with the engineering firm Nishkian Dean to create a custom design that will optimize the electricity produced by the solar electric system and last the 40-year life span of the solar panels. It's a great way to reduce business costs and help reduce our dependence on coal power. About 40% of the electricity consumed in Oregon last year was coal generated."

The decision to invest in solar power is a natural fit with the company's commitment to environmental responsibility, a focus that is currently led by a "green" committee at Powell's. According to Michael Powell, "It made perfect sense for our business financially, and it supports our values as a company. We are continually looking for ways for our business to lessen its impact on the environment."

Powell's Books, along with many other prominent Oregon businesses are installing photovoltaic power systems because it saves companies money in the end. Powell's was able to take advantage of two tax credits and an Oregon Energy Trust incentive in addition to using an accelerated depreciation method of accounting for the system. Despite the relatively low cost of electricity in Oregon, the payback on Powell's original investment will happen in a short five-year timeframe, just a fraction of the system's life span. Combined with the federal tax credit that was recently renewed by Congress for another eight years, the numerous incentives specific to Oregon make the state one of the best places to install solar systems in the U.S.

Solar power in Oregon? Oregon's very rainy climate has some skeptics wondering about the viability of solar power, but according to McClellan, "A solar array in the Willamette Valley will produce about 70% of the energy that an array in southern Arizona will produce. Because utility companies offer credit on a yearly basis for power fed back to the grid, the focus is on how much sunshine we receive over a year rather than when it shines."

About Powell's Books and Powells.com
An independent bookseller since 1971, Powell's serves the Portland, Oregon, area with four general bookstores and two specialty stores. Its flagship store takes up an entire city block, offering 68,000 square feet of used, new, rare, and out-of-print books. Online since 1994, Powells.com offers the combined inventory of its six retail locations and five warehouses — approximately four million books in all. The site features exclusive author interviews and essays, as well as a stable of internationally respected book reviewers and content partners.

About Energy Design
Energy Design is a licensed, bonded electrical contractor that specializes in design and installation of solar energy systems. Vince McClellan, owner of Energy Design, has been installing solar electric systems since 1982. He has a reputation for his innovative and cutting edge designs and meticulous craftsmanship.

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