No Green R.E.I. for Seattle

Folsom, Calif., and others get solar panels and other goodies.

Last week, the Kent-based outdoor gear retailer REI announced plans to install solar technology at 10 percent of its stores nationwide—but Seattle didn't make the cut.Common sense would dictate that nine months per year of crummy weather would not be conducive to solar power, but more went into the decision than the preponderance of rain, says company spokesperson Bethany Nielson. "Of course sun hours play a role, but more important was financial feasibility," she says. State incentives, utility rebates, the current cost of electricity, relationships with landlords, as well as the size and condition of the roof also factored into the equation, she says.REI officials ended up selecting stores in Arcadia, Folsom, Sacramento, San Carlos, San Diego, San Francisco, and Santa Rosa, Calif., as well as in Clackamas, Hillsboro, and Tualatin, Ore. The company also plans to install solar technology on a green prototype store in Round Rock, Tex., Neilson says. That location, along with another in Boulder, Colo., will serve as guinea pigs for REI's green building concepts and retail design; solar technology is expected to supply 35 percent of each store's electricity.But why the hometown snub? "Because financial feasibility plays such a role, we're waiting at this point to see what available incentives and rebates will be to guide our decisions in the future," Neilson says. "It's not that [Seattle] wasn't willing to work with us, these were just the stores that worked best."While a quartet of City Council members professed ignorance of REI's initiative, Sally Clark says: "I'm dying for someone to get involved in [solar energy]. I've heard it would work in Seattle, but you kind of need some big names to jump in and test the water before you can gain some credibility with the argument."

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