The Mountain Times

°F Mon, April 21, 2014

Central Vermont's Most Popular Weekly Newspaper

GMP Energy Innovation Center heralds new day in Rutland energy


RUTLAND - Calling it a symbol of Rutland's fast-growing revitalization and a key to Green Mountain Power's and its customers' energy future, local and GMP leaders opened the new downtown Energy Innovation Center, Wednesday, Nov. 20.
"Just as we revitalized this once blighted space, the EIC will nurture and grow our portfolio of clean, affordable, low-carbon energy, and will serve as a tremendous information resource for Vermonters of all ages," GMP President and CEO Mary Powell said. "GMP is quickly becoming the utility of the future, seeking out new ways to serve customers better and more cost effectively by anticipating their needs, and bridging the gap between traditional electrical, transportation and home heating needs. The EIC will be the focus of that effort.
"We envision the EIC as the development hub of cost-effective generation options leveraging efficiency and technology not only for Rutland, but our entire service area and beyond," Powell said. "The people working here will be paramount to our efforts to make Rutland the solar capital of New England, and meet our customers' evolving energy needs."
The facility will house not only GMP employees, but workers from Efficiency Vermont and Neighborworks of Western Vermont, a partnership believed to be among the first of its kind in the country. "In many places, utilities, solar developers and efficiency experts are on opposite sides of a great divide," Powell said. "In the EIC, we will bring them together for the benefit of our mutual customers."
Speaking to a crowd of employees and local business, education and community leaders, Powell said the building, which just a year ago was a hulking, moldy mess, empty for years, would be a cross between an energy think tank, renewable developer, classroom, and collaboration center.  It is part of a larger plan to consolidate GMP's total real estate footprint to save millions of dollars for customers.
The EIC, once a bustling department store but most recently Downtown Rutland's largest and arguably most blighted building, was built by Russell Construction Services, with design by NBF Architects, both of Rutland. Exhibits, which focus on energy and the environment, were designed and built by The Imagination Company of Bethel.
Steve Costello, GMP's vice president for generation and energy innovation, said the building itself is a model of innovation, with air-source heat pumps, two solar arrays, small-scale wind, high-efficiency LED lighting, light tubes, triple-pane windows, efficient skylights and motion sensors to reduce artificial lighting needs. The building uses direct current to power lights, and includes energy storage and super-dense insulation to reduce heating needs - yet the restoration preserved historic features including a stunning metal ceiling, stainless steel window frames and a terra cotta art deco facade.
"A year ago, I told the board of aldermen that we wanted to make a statement about efficiency and our commitment to Rutland with the building, delivering a message about Rutland's future, which we think is bright," Costello said. "With an extraordinary effort by Russell, NBF and dozens of other local and statewide subcontractors, I think we hit the mark. We see great things ahead in Rutland and in the EIC, for our customers and the community."
Sen. Kevin Mullin welcomed the restoration of the blighted property. "Replacing what appeared to the passerby to be an abandoned building with an efficient, educational asset is already paying dividends for the community," Mullin said. "After nearly a decade in increasingly poor condition, the building now symbolizes an important and critical investment in the downtown's revitalization."
Mayor Chris Louras said the restoration of the Paramount Theatre was the only economic and community development project in a generation to compare with the EIC project. "GMP's vision for this building, and its commitment to responsible, sustainable energy development, has breathed new life into downtown Rutland and the city as a whole," Louras said. "Their leadership has inspired half a dozen businesses to open, expand and invest in downtown Rutland since this project began, creating new energy and excitement. This building will be a draw for thousands of people, who will see Rutland in a whole new light."
David Allaire, president of the board of aldermen, said the EIC opening was emblematic of the city's future.  "The future, like this building, is bright," Allaire said. "This building symbolizes a new and exciting chapter in the story of Rutland, Vermont."
"I am pleased to see the Energy Innovation Center deliver on GMP's goal to not only make Rutland the solar capital of New England, but spurring a revitalization of the downtown," said Sen. Peg Flory. "The economic opportunity and job creation occurring in and around Rutland is exciting. This is exactly the kind of job growth the Legislature has focused on in promoting new renewable energy technology. It's nice to see it take a foothold in Rutland, while providing a window on the opportunities that are ahead for the entire state of Vermont."