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Construction begins on GMP Energy Innovation Center

Work on Green Mountain Power's Energy Innovation Center kicked off Thursday, March 14 with an original "groundbreaking," as local and company officials and guests signed a 2-by-12 that was immediately incorporated into the framing.

"Like this groundbreaking, this building will be unlike anything in Vermont, an engaging, inviting space that will serve as a working example for customers and all Vermonters of clean, renewable energy, and the birthplace of new ideas on generation, efficiency and customer choices," GMP President and CEO Mary Powell said. "We want this building to serve as a Vermont model of efficiency, sustainability and forward thinking on energy, both electrical and thermal, that will drive long-term social and economic prosperity."
Powell, who displayed architectural renderings of the interior, was joined by Steve Costello, vice president for generation and energy innovation; Chris Louras, mayor of Rutland; Mike Coppinger, executive director of the Downtown Rutland Partnership; Mary Lamson, communications director at NeighborWorks of Western Vermont; Dave Adams, staff manager of Efficiency Vermont's Rutland office; John Russell III of Russell Construction Services; architect Ralph Nimtz; and dozens of other community members.
The interior design includes extensive natural lighting through new windows, skylights and light tubes to reduce electrical consumption. There will be an energy-efficient revolving door, rubber flooring intended to dampen sound and mimic flowing water, and exposed mechanical and electrical systems, including bright blue "heat socks" that will frame the preserved, historic metal ceiling.

High-efficiency air-source heat pumps will provide space heating and domestic hot water. Air-source heat pumps are up to 350 percent efficient, meaning they can produce 3.5 units of heat for every unit of energy consumed. A typical oil burner is only about 80 to 85 percent efficient.

"The building will be extremely efficient, and inexpensive to operate," Costello said. "We hope to create new thinking about efficiency, renewable energy and low-cost heating, and demonstrate how customers across Vermont can reduce their carbon footprints and save money."

The building will have a 14-kilowatt solar array on the roof, two car-charging stations, and a small furnace that will run on 100 percent biodiesel. The building, expected to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification from the U.S. Green Building Council, is scheduled to open in October.

The building will feature an open workspace, a glass-walled classroom/conference space, and an exhibit area in front.

"The design is inspirational, and GMP's presence downtown is already prompting other businesses to make their homes here," said Mayor Chris Louras, referring to Small Dog Electronics and Same Sun Choice, which are scheduled to open this spring. "Based on our continuing collaboration, I am confident that GMP's commitment to make Rutland the Solar Capital of New England will continue to entice other businesses to come to Rutland."

The EIC will be the focal point of the solar capital effort, with a goal to create the most solar generation per capita in any city in the region. GMP employees will work with Efficiency Vermont and Neighborworks of Western Vermont to collaboratively develop new programs, outreach and opportunities for customers looking to reduce their energy bills and increase renewable generation in Vermont.

"We look forward to working out of the Energy Innovation Center, which we believe will give The NeighborWorks HEAT Squad more chances to meet with individual Vermonters and allow us to help them start saving an average of 386 gallons of fuel a year," Lamson said.

"Efficiency Vermont has a strong commitment to the Rutland region," Adams said. "We see this collaboration as a fantastic opportunity to grow that connection even further, and we are really looking forward to working together, every day, to deliver even more positive results for the area."

Coppinger, who sought GMP's help to bring Small Dog to Rutland, said the EIC would help transform downtown. "This is a game-changer for downtown Rutland," Coppinger said. "It will draw in people, and equally important, GMP is already helping to build a new sense of pride in Rutland, and making it more vibrant than it has been in decades."

Construction on the Energy Innovation Center, located on Merchants Row in the heart of the downtown, will continue throughout the spring and summer before the October opening.

Green Mountain Power (www.greenmountainpower.com) generates, transmits, distributes and sells electricity in the state of Vermont. The company, which serves more than 250,000 customers, has set its vision to be the best small utility in America.