Green Genes

Chevron franchisee thrives with the ultimate eco-friendly store.

By  Bob Barman, Owner

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The newly remodeled Chevron ExtraMile station you see on the corner of Murray and Allen boulevards in Beaverton, Ore., isn’t your average convenience store. Yes, it sells fuel, food and beverages, but this sleek new location is completely green—and it’s one of just a few across the country.

The path to going green began decades ago as my wife, Katy, and I watched how our neighborhood lake, Lake Oswego, was affected by storm-water runoff from local rooftops, street drainage, etc. In the summer, this runoff would contribute to enormous algae blooms that would prevent residents from enjoying the lake.

Seeing firsthand how human development can negatively affect the environment, my wife and I realized we were in the unique position to make a statement and actually be the change we so often talked about.

We leased our station as a traditional Chevron in 1993 and eventually purchased the site from Chevron in 2009. We always planned to remodel our location, but it was when we started talking to local officials about the damage caused by water runoff that we saw an opportunity to set an example for other businesses in Portland.

We thought: Why don’t we convert the canopy over the fuel pumps into an eco roof? We began working with the lead limnologist at the Lake Oswego Corp., who informed us that installing sod on just 50% of our canopy would reduce runoff by 43,000 gallons a year, minimizing water running into the street as well as lessening the creation of algae blooms.

Looking Beyond the Canopy

We continued our journey to sustainability, investigating other green-friendly architectural enhancements that could complement the canopy.

For example, because 50% of our roof was sod-free, we used the empty space to install 175 solar panels. These produce all of the energy needed to power our Chevron ExtraMile in a 24-hour period. We also discovered that federal and Oregon state tax credits helped cover most of the cost. The reduction in our energy bill will more than offset this expense in just a few years. I am proud to say we are now a net zero user of energy, giving energy back to the “grid” each month.

Our Chevron ExtraMile consultant Larry Bornstein from CBRichard Ellis helped us every step of the way, showing us businesses in downtown Portland with eco roofs and various LED lighting configurations. He helped us become the first Chevron ExtraMile to use 100% LED lighting, meaning we not only have LED lights inside the store, but also outside on our price signs. You might wonder, with LED lights, an eco roof and solar panels, what more is there? Quite a bit. We began looking into geothermal power, which is the concept of harnessing the earth’s energy to heat and cool. It is one of the best-kept secrets in the country.

A traditional HVAC system was going to cost us $30,000 to install. Our partners at Total Energy Concepts told us if we drilled down to the water table, we could use the Earth’s energy to cool and heat our store with 70% less energy. The price tag was $30,000 more than the original HVAC estimate, but we’d recoup this expenditure in just a few years through total utility savings. In fact, our local school district is now looking at this technology to reduce the cost of heating our local schools, in turn allowing the district to hire several additional teachers instead of spending the money on energy.

After we made the investments to save money over the long haul, it was time to think green in terms of generating revenue.

We chose to offer biodiesel. Although this isn’t a Chevron product, when we asked the ExtraMile team if they would support a biodiesel offering at our location, they didn’t hesitate. Chevron understood this would help us be true to our mission of becoming one of the country’s premier eco-friendly convenience stores. Now our LED price sign on the corner very proudly displays our biodiesel price alongside our Chevron fuel prices.

Finally, we decided if we were going to go green, we needed to provide a charging station for our customers who drive electric vehicles. We proudly offer free electric charges for any customer who needs one. (The electricity is free because we generate more electricity than we use with our solar panels.)

The charging station might be perceived as contradictory to our roots as a gasoline service station; however, we would be remiss to ignore our customers’ changing needs. In an increasingly environmentally conscious society, charging stations send the message that we are keeping pace with innovation while also letting customers know they can depend on us for their energy needs.

The reaction from our customers— young, old, liberal and conservative—has been overwhelmingly positive.

The best way to look at the price of going green is to look at the overall cost of the project. The entire project, including design, engineering, permitting and building the station, was approximately $2.5 million. We received incentives from Chevron for branding the site ExtraMile and also rebuilding the facility. We also got cash rebates from the feds for our solar installation, and the Energy Trust of Oregon for geothermal heating and cooling, and solar power. We received tax credits from the state of Oregon, too. It all totaled approximately $1 million, so the incentives reduced the cost of the project to just over $1.5 million.

What’s Next

To my wife and me, Chevron ExtraMile is more than a brand. It’s a reminder of the role we play within the convenience store industry: going the “extra mile” to serve our customers with friendly, convenient, high-quality products and services. We wanted to go the extra mile and be affiliated with a company that is not afraid to lead or change.

I’m the son of a geophysicist who worked his entire career in the oil industry. He is very proud of the many accomplishments his industry colleagues have pioneered, including new technologies, North Slope production and deep-water drilling, among others. I’m proud to be part of a sea change to lead our industry to a more sustainable future. My hope is that we as an industry will embrace the green building concepts implemented at the Beaverton ExtraMile.

Can you imagine how much better our environment would be if every new or remodeled service-station canopy had an eco roof to mitigate harmful rainwater runoff? And extending beyond the convenience industry, think if every mall, highrise, fast-food restaurant, industrial park and like-minded construction project had eco roofs. Think of the benefit if we led the way instead of waiting to be led.ould prevent residents from enjoying the lake. 

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