The Mountain Times

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Rutland’s solar capital initiative makes strides

Green Mountain Power recently announced solar capital initiatives that bring Rutland closer to becoming the solar capital of New England, with the highest per-capita solar reliance of any city in the region. GMP has completed the 150-kilowatt Creek Path Solar Farm, purchased a majority interest in a 150-kW project at the former Poor Farm, agreed with Rutland Regional Medical Center to build a 150-kW project on its land, and is planning what could be the state's largest project, the Stafford Hill Solar Farm, on the city's former landfill. 

At least half a dozen solar companies are investigating in potential projects for Rutland as part of the Solar Capital effort, which includes efforts to recruit new businesses in Rutland.  Two such businesses, Small Dog Electronics and Same Sun Choice, are expected to open their doors this spring.

GMP, City of Rutland collaborate on solar streetlight pilot

The Vermont Public Service Board has approved plans for a solar streetlight pilot program in Rutland, a collaborative effort between the city and Green Mountain Power.

"This project will give us insights into the suitability and efficacy of solar streetlights, which are quite new to the marketplace but have great potential," said Mary Powell, GMP's president and CEO. "The pilot is part of our commitment to make Rutland the Solar Capital of New England.  Not only are we facilitating solar development, we plan a series of pilot programs to study various technologies, rate choices and customer programs in Rutland."

Under the plan approved by the PSB, GMP will purchase and the city will install eight solar-powered LED streetlights in Depot Park, replacing existing, less-efficient lights. The new lights, like the existing ones, have an ornamental-style design featuring black poles.

The new lights are expected to produce about 93 percent of the electricity they consume, using thin-film solar collectors. The collectors are wrapped around the pole, and are designed so damage to one section does not affect adjacent collectors.

"Not only will we be helping GMP test the product, we'll be supporting a Vermont manufacturer," Mayor Chris Louras said. "We'll also significantly reduce the environmental impact of the park's lighting, and make a very visible statement as part of the Solar Capital initiative in Rutland."

The new lights, with a combination of solar production and high-efficiency LED lighting, will cut energy consumption by about 8,000 kilowatt-hours, reducing carbon dioxide emissions by more than three tons annually.

In addition to the streetlight pilot, the PSB approved use of incentives to build three customer-owned solar charging stations. The project proposals were supported by the Vermont Department of Public Service, Conservation Law Foundation, Citizens Action Network, and Renewable Energy Vermont.

Rutland Regional Medical Center adds to Solar Capital effort

Hospital to host 150-kilowatt Green Mountain Power solar farm

Rutland Regional Medical Center announced Feb. 21 that it plans to host Green Mountain Power's third Rutland solar farm under a lease agreement designed to make use of hospital land with few other potential uses.

"We support GMP's Solar Capital initiative and see this project as an introduction to solar energy at Rutland Regional," President Thomas Huebner said.  "We want to support the Solar Capital effort and gain some experience with solar energy ourselves."

"The Solar Center at Rutland Regional, as the project will be known, will be a visible, productive symbol of the hospital's commitment to economic development and the community at large," said Mary Powell, GMP's president and CEO.  "We expect the center, which will include a 150-kilowatt solar farm and educational information on renewable energy, will become a destination for local schoolchildren and adults."

"The Solar Center at Rutland Regional is a big step toward fulfilling our commitment to make Rutland the center of solar development in Vermont and New England," said Steve Costello, GMP's vice president for generation and energy innovation.  "We're building momentum with each project, and are optimistic that several other projects will be announced in the next few months."
The solar center will be built on Rutland Regional property surrounding two stormwater retention ponds just south of Allen Street, adjacent to the hospital's walking path. "There is little potential for other uses of that corner of the property, so we see this as a great way to put it into productive use," said Mary Nemeth, Rutland Regional's vice president for corporate support services.

GMP, which will own and maintain the solar center, will put it out to bid this month. Under a 25-year lease agreement with Rutland Regional, GMP will credit the hospital for 10 percent of the project's output. The remaining energy will go onto the local electric grid and will be consumed by local GMP customers.

"This is a low-risk way for Rutland Regional to gather a lot of first-hand knowledge about solar while helping move the Solar Capital initiative forward," Costello said. "We're hopeful that the Rutland Regional Solar Center agreement, which is modeled after the Stafford Hill agreement with the City of Rutland, will serve as a model for others interested in developing solar in a collaborative manner."

The solar center will be GMP's third in the city of Rutland, part of the company's promise to make Rutland the Solar Capital of New England, with the highest solar reliance per capita of any city in the region.

Rutland panel approves GMP Energy Innovation Center design

The Rutland Architectural Review Board on Wednesday, Feb 20, approved the design of Green Mountain Power's planned Energy Innovation Center, an art deco motif that honors the building's past even as it symbolizes a new chapter in downtown Rutland.
"The EIC will be a working example of energy innovation," GMP President and CEO Mary Powell said.  "Through a mix of recycled and new materials and features, we'll blend the two structures that made up the Eastman Building into a customer-focused space where Vermonters can learn about generation, efficiency, environmental effects of energy decisions, new technologies and new customer programs."

The EIC will be the focal point of GMP renewable energy development, including efforts to make Rutland the solar capital of New England, with the highest reliance on solar per capita of any city in the region.

The smaller building, a wood-framed structure, combined with a circa 1925 retail store that has sat empty and has become increasingly dilapidated for a decade, will house GMP employees and staff from Efficiency Vermont and Neighborworks of Western Vt., classroom/conference space, and public exhibits focused on energy and the environment. While a significant improvement to the largest empty space in downtown Rutland, the project is also a key component of GMP plans to achieve millions of dollars of customer savings by reducing the company's overall square footage.

Steve Costello, GMP's vice president for generation and energy innovation, said the plans include restoration of many of the main building's original features, including an historic metal ceiling, terra cotta tiled facade, and stainless steel trim on windows and signage.

"The annex, which is in significant decay, will receive a completely new face, including key attributes of the larger building's art deco style," Costello said.  "We're also using an art deco sign to visually connect the two buildings."

The design is by Ralph Nimtz of NBF Architects of Rutland.  The project is being managed by Russell Construction Services of Rutland, which is nearing completion of selective interior demolition work in anticipation of construction starting in March. The project, scheduled for completion in October, includes triple-glazed fiberglass windows, a white, reflective membrane roof with a walkway for public view of a 14-kilowatt solar array, LED and extensive natural lighting, an energy-efficient revolving door, R60 ceiling and R30 wall insulation, and an open work environment with exposed mechanical and electrical systems.

The building is expected to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council. "The project has received a lot of LEED points for rehabbing a deteriorated structure, recycling building materials and use of high-efficiency systems, which will make it cheaper and cleaner to operate," Nimtz said. 

Mayor Chris Louras, who led a city panel that provided input on site selection, praised the design. "I see the EIC as a tremendous addition to downtown Rutland," Louras said.  "We're replacing one of the most troubling properties in the entire city with what I know will be one of the most exciting additions to Rutland in a generation."