Retailer Goes for 'Net Zero'

Chevron convenience store "the most sustainable station in America"

BEAVERTON, Ore. -- If it weren't for the temporary signs that Bob Barman posted all around, most drivers stopping for a fill-up wouldn't know there's something revolutionary going on at his new Highland Chevron gas station and Extra Mile convenience store.

Besides selling gasoline and snacks, Barman's store is a small power plant that produces as much electricity as it consumes, a goal that energy efficiency advocates call "net zero," according to a report in the Oregonian.

Beaverton Mayor Denny Doyle called the business "the most sustainable station in America."

"Can you imagine how much energy our country would save if every business went to net zero?" Barman, who wants his station to serve as a model for gas stations and other businesses, told the newspaper.

Thanks to features largely out of sight, nature quietly keeps the lights bright and the coolers full of frigid soda and energy drinks.

More than 180 solar panels top the pump canopy and store roof, tapping sunlight to meet about a third of a typical gas station's electricity needs.

In addition, the station uses only a third of the wattage of others that also have 24-hour stores, thanks to two more features seldom found at a neighborhood gas station.

A geothermal well plunges 426 feet below ground, exchanging heat through groundwater. Naturally cool water helps run the Extra Mile's bank of refrigerators. Water pipes gather heat that cooling units extract and store it far underground as hot water.

"All summer, we stuff heat in the ground. All winter, we take it back out," said John Lower, whose Vancouver-based Total Energy Concepts installed the geothermal system.

High-efficiency LED fixtures are used in almost every light fixture in the building, from the outdoor price signs to the depths of the beer cave.

Barman said the system is running so well since he turned the power on a few weeks before opening in late August that he's built up a credit with Portland General Electric for pumping surplus electricity into the grid.

He didn't stop there. He installed a free electric-vehicle charging station outside and had the pump station canopy (the portion not covered by solar panels) covered in water-absorbing sedum plants to reduce polluted runoff to streams.