GMP starts work on EIC
By Gordon Dritschilo
Staff Writer | March 15,2013
Vyto Starinskas / Staff Photo
Steve Costello of Green Mountain Power explains the renovations at the new Energy Innovation Center in downtown Rutland during a ceremony Thursday.
The “groundbreaking” Thursday at Green Mountain Power’s Energy Innovation Center was really more of a board-placing.
“We don’t actually have ground to break,” GMP President Mary Powell told the crowd gathered inside the former Eastman’s building on Merchants Row.
So, instead, local dignitaries signed a white wooden plank that was then attached to one of the walls.
The utility has already addressed mold and asbestos in the building. Steve Costello, vice president of generation and energy innovation at GMP, said the smell was unbearable when GMP first bought the building and the utility expects to spend more than $2 million converting it into office space it will share with Efficiency Vermont and NeighborWorks of Western Vermont.
Together, the three organizations will work on energy-efficiency and renewable-energy projects of various scales in the Rutland area.
Powell pointed out how the Chaffee Art Center and Castleton State College have opened galleries downtown as Small Dog Electronics and Same Sun of Vermont prepare to open stores.
“It doesn’t take a village, it takes Rutland,” Powell said. “It takes Rutland to do great things and that’s what we’re doing.”
Michael Coppinger, executive director of the Downtown Rutland Partnership, said the downtown was nearing 90 percent occupancy at street level.
“It hasn’t been anywhere close to there in eight years in the downtown,” he said. “It’s not a coincidence that so many things are happening at once.”
Coppinger also thanked architect Ralph Nimtz for maintaining the building’s character in his designs for the exterior. Costello added there were not a lot of art deco buildings downtown.
Costello unveiled the interior design, which has an exhibit space in front, a glassed-in classroom in the middle with room for about 30 students, an open office design in the back, and finally a glassed-in area at the very rear of the building where visitors can look in at the heat pumps and equipment connected to the planned rooftop solar collectors.
The building will use no fossil fuel, he said.
“The only thing we’ll burn is 100 percent biodiesel as a backup to the heat pump,” Costello said.
Powell said the utility is about a year into its effort to make Rutland the “solar capital” of the Northeast.
“We’re already about halfway there in committed projects that we know of,” she said. “That’s huge. ... We thought it was going to be done by 2017. Really, it could be next year.”
At the very least, Powell said, they will be closing in by the time the center opens in October.
“It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get to the next designation, the next level of creativity and innovation,” she said.