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Camping World reaps a powerful advantage.

Byline: Sherri Buri McDonald The Register-Guard

JUNCTION CITY - Camping World, the new RV-supply store on Highway 99, has everything under the sun - literally.

Attached to the roof are photovoltaic panels, capable of generating 60,000 kilowatt hours of electricity a year, making it the largest solar generator in Lane County and the second-largest in Oregon. The state's largest, capable of generating 100,000 kilowatt hours a year, is at Kettle Chips, a snack-food maker in Salem.

Camping World will be able to supply more than 30 percent of the energy that it uses at the store, according to Emerald People's Utility District. The utility serves mostly rural customers within a 550-square-miles area around Eugene and Springfield.

The solar system is a boon for Camping World, as well as for the power supply system, company and utility officials said.

"Producing electricity on site will relieve congestion on the power supply system and will provide power with zero emissions for years to come," said Patti Chappel, president of the EPUD board of directors.

The Nill family, owners of the Guaranty RV dealership, built the store and leases it to Camping World.

"It seemed like a good opportunity at the time of construction to include a solar project," said Eric Nill, Guaranty's chief information officer. "Aside from being the right thing to do from a responsibility standpoint, it also made good business sense."

The solar technology required a significant upfront cost - more than $400,000 - Nill said. But he regards it as a long-term investment. The solar panels have an expected life of more than 50 years.

Tax credits from the state and federal government also help make solar generators more affordable.

Nill said he's hoping the system will pay for itself in about five years.

EPUD also threw in an incentive for the Nills. EPUD entered a five-year contract, agreeing to buy back the power generated at Camping World at an average retail rate of about 7 cents per kilowatt hour, instead of the wholesale cost of 3.2 cents per kilowatt hour for this size and type of customer, said Bob Mieger, EPUD communications manager.

If solar generators are such a good idea for business, why haven't more companies installed them?

"Everyone has heard that solar is too expensive," EPUD spokeswoman Judith Manning said.

But "the technology is better and the cost is better in comparison to the rates we're paying for our regular electricity," she said.

Despite Oregon's rainy reputation, solar systems are "very viable in the Willamette Valley," Nill said.

"We have our gray months in the wintertime," he said. But "we have more sun than people give us credit for."
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Title Annotation:Business; The RV supplier's new site profits from the sun with its rooftop photovoltaic panels
Publication:The Register-Guard (Eugene, OR)
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 24, 2006
Previous Article:Picnic a time to recognize achievement.
Next Article:THE BULLETIN.

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