by Clint Bowie, Special to The Oregonian

Thursday December 25, 2008, 2:00 AM

Powell’s put solar panels on the roof of its warehouse, which houses the online division of the company, in Northwest Portland.

The next time you buy a book online at, your order will be powered — at least in part — by Portland sunshine.

The warehouse in Northwest Portland that houses the online division of the bookstore recently became home to one of the largest solar power installations in Oregon. According to owner Michael Powell, it’s all part of the company’s efforts to minimize its carbon footprint.

“We’ve been looking at ways to become more environmentally friendly,” he says, “and the solar system seemed to be a good fit for ourselves and for the environment.” For the past two years, Powell’s has had a “green committee” that seeks to incorporate sustainable practices into the business. “We are very aware of what we do,” Powell says, “and we try to do what we feel is right — recycling, controlling greenhouse gases, heat control, using biofuel.”

They had looked at installing solar panels on the roof of their downtown City of Books, 1005 W. Burnside, but the taller buildings surrounding it would have shielded some of the sunlight.

The unshadowed roof space at the warehouse at 2720 N.W. 29th Ave. provided the ideal spot to soak up the local sun. Don’t laugh — the city’s solar power potential is only 30 percent less than that of Tucson, Ariz., according to Vince McClellan, president of Energy Design, which was responsible for the installation.

The 540 photovoltaic panels that now cover the 60,000-square-foot roof supply about a quarter of the building’s electricity need, Powell says.

Thanks in no small part to federal and state tax credits as well as an Oregon Energy Trust incentive, the system should pay for itself within about five years.

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