The Native American Youth and Family Center (NAYA) is ready to soak up the sun. The center has just installed rooftop solar panels and says the new system of 428 panels is the second largest in Multnomah County. They anticipate it will create 15 percent annual energy savings.

Located on Northeast Columbia Boulevard, NAYA features a series of after-school and advocacy programs as well as employment services, violence prevention, and foster-care support programs. It says the panel system will move the center closer to a LEED certification and strengthen its student science and environmental programs. The initial project cost was $850,000. But they were able to get that down to $160,000 through negotiations with their two companies, EC and Solar World, plus a series of state tax credits. They funded the remainder of the expenses with a grant from the Northwest Area Partner.

"We're super excited," says Nichole Maher, executive director for NAYA. She says the step in energy efficiency is a bright spot for the Native American community, which has the highest poverty rate out of out of any ethnic community in Multnomah County. People of color in Portland also suffer from greater racial disparities compared with other American cities. The panels have already covered 90 percent of the building's energy costs on a good day.

"The other day, it was raining, and it was at 20 percent, so we'll see," says Maher. "But it's promising."