Green Mountain Power’s new $2.75 million Energy Innovation Center opens today in Rutland. The facility was created out of what had been two blighted downtown properties and fulfills one of the key promises GMP made to Rutland when it purchased CVPS almost 18 months ago.
Green Mountain Power's Vice President of Generation and Energy Innovation Steve Costello stood in front of the Energy Innovation Center’s new, revolving glass entryway. “We tried to preserve as much of the original building as we could so for example, the terra cotta - all this stone on the main building is original."
Costello says they added some dramatic new touches as well, like the art deco signage complete with green neon lettering, and a spacious, museum-like area that will be open to the public even on Saturdays.
“What we hope it will be for the public is really an inspiration space where they can learn about energy, learn about the impacts of their energy choices and hopefully impact how they think about energy ,” says Costello.
The public space contains 12 colorful, hands-on displays that highlight various aspects of solar power, wind power, hydro - and yes, there’s even a seven-foot-long animatronic Holstein that’ll chat you up about cow power.
Jim Giberti, president of the Imagination Company, the Bethel firm that designed and built the cow and other displays, says they spent a lot of time learning about energy before trying to get creative. “We sort of approached it walking the line between things that would be educational and interesting for kids to come in and hands on and interactive while also being informative for adults,” he says.
While the front third of the 70,000-square-foot building is public space, Costello says the back end and second floor will house offices for 30 GMP employees.
Another suite of offices will be used by Efficiency Vermont and the nonprofit housing organization NeighborWorks of Western Vermont.
There’s also a large glassed in conference room that can be used by staff as well as schools and colleges for lectures.
Walking the length of the ground floor, visitors can’t help but notice all the natural light. Pointing toward the ceiling, Costello says that’s thanks to several large skylights. An interior hallway and several bathrooms are brightened by mirrored tubes that bring in light from the rooftop.
He says the building itself is meant to be part of the energy exhibit, showcasing efficiency in a real setting. “When you look up above you, these blue tubes are called heat socks and they’re connected to heat pumps. So we hope to burn no fossil fuels to heat this space.”
Up on the roof, you can see those heat pumps, two types of solar arrays and a mini wind turbine in action.
Costello says it’s all about getting folks to think about energy - something he says most people don’t do. “We hope to begin a deeper discussion with customers and really get them thinking about how they use it, why they use it and how they can use it more efficiently. Everything from home heating, lighting, computers and electric vehicles.”
Given that Vermont has set a goal of getting 90 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2050, Costello says the sooner the state gets that conversation going, the better.