The Mountain Times

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GMP plans heat pump summit in Rutland

Green Mountain Power will hold a Heat Pump Summit Thursday as the company begins to explore the possibility of a heat pump pilot program in the city of Rutland.

"Ductless air-source heat pumps may have significant benefits in reducing Vermonters' heating costs and Vermont's reliance on foreign oil," said Mary Powell, president and CEO of GMP.  "The summit is planned as an important early step in investigating their functionality, costs of operation and potential deployment strategies, which could create jobs for Vermont companies and workers."

Air-source heat pumps, also known as mini-split heat pumps, work much like a refrigerator to move heat from one area to another. Even with low temperatures outside, heat pumps can capture the heat in the air to warm a home or business, and automatically reverse the process in the summer to cool interior spaces like a typical air conditioner.

"Because they move heat rather than generate heat, heat pumps can provide up to four times the amount of energy they consume," according to the U.S. Department of Energy.

Heat pumps have traditionally been used in areas with moderate climates, but improving technologies may make heat pumps a valuable option for people in cooler climates like Vermont. Ductless heat pumps are best used to displace much of the fuel use of an existing heating system with low cost, clean electricity.

"We already know of a handful of customers who are using heat pumps to heat both water and interior spaces, and they report that they are saving substantially on their heating costs, while improving comfort," said Steve Costello, GMP's vice president for generation and energy innovation. "We think there is tremendous potential for air-source heat pumps, and the summit will help us and others learn as much as possible about their capabilities in a relatively short time."

Thirty heat pump water heaters are being tested in the Rutland area as part of the GMP Smart Power program. Early results indicate substantial savings to customers. Heat pump water heaters need to be indoors in Vermont and are best suited to unheated basements to draw energy from the ground outside and to dehumidify the basements.

Manufacturers' representatives, potential installers, lenders, local distributors and weatherization and efficiency experts will meet in the Franklin Conference Room at the Howe Center at One Scale Avenue in Rutland on Nov. 1 from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.

"The goal of the Heat Pump Summit is to facilitate a forum for learning and start a conversation about the value proposition for our customers and how the equipment can be effectively deployed," Costello said. "Toward this end, we want to learn from, and share ideas with, vendors and installers already working in this nascent but expanding field."

The summit is part of GMP's Energy Innovation Center's ongoing effort to investigate and develop new technologies, customer programs and renewable energy, and make Rutland the center of transformative energy development in Vermont.  "We hope to help initiate a broad and enduring phase of transformation and revitalization for Rutland and our valued customers - and create a model for other communities to emulate," Costello said.

GMP is in the early development stages for the new Energy Innovation Center in downtown Rutland, and is developing concepts for future customer programs related to electric vehicles, customer energy management, and renewable energy.