RUTLAND — Green Mountain Power loosed a barrage of new initiatives Wednesday aimed at making more power in Rutland while using it better.
Mary Powell, CEO of the state’s largest utility, joined local officials for a press conference at the Paramount Theatre, addressing a crowd of about 50 from in front of a panoramic photo of the city.
She started by saying GMP had increased its projection for the amount of solar generation it intends to see installed in Rutland under the “solar city” initiative.
Powell then listed plans including the installation of solar collectors and smart monitors on 40 street lights, increasing the use of underground transmission lines, expanding the Cow Power program to include food waste and smaller farms, developing an “energy park” and energy trail in the city to aid education on renewable energy, and installing quick-charge stations capable of powering up an electric vehicle in 20 minutes.
Powell also announced pilot programs studying how to make the grid more resilient and the use of new cooling technology to shift the power load away from peak summer days.
On top of that, the utility plans to offer free working space for a year to a start-up company to be chosen later and reaffirmed its commitment to community-building efforts in the city.
“I will tell you, candidly, we’re working on other things,” Powell said. “Hopefully, I’ll be dragging you back here in a couple months.”
The press conference featured an appearance by Sen. Bernard Sanders, I-Vt., who stressed the importance of energy efficiency and renewable energy development.
“The bottom line is that virtually the entire scientific community agrees that global warming is real,” he said. “We’re seeing that in terms of drought, in terms of flooding, in terms of extreme weather disturbances.”
All of this, Sanders said, makes cutting greenhouse gas emissions an essential challenge.
“The solution to that problem is going to be people from all kinds of sectors, public and private, working together,” he said. “I don’t think there is any private utility in the United States of America that had been as bold, as aggressive and as innovative as Green Mountain Power.”
Sanders also emphasized the importance of combining both renewable energy generation and making new strides in efficiency. GMP’s plans covered both.
While the initial goal of the solar city effort was to install 6.25 megawatts by 2017, Powell said Wednesday the utility expects to install 10 megawatts by the end of 2015. The increase in capacity takes the utility from trying to set a regional record to a national one.
“The amount of solar per capita in this city is going to be greater than any other city that we can find,” Powell said.
Powell said scaling has been the chief limitation on the Cow Power program, which makes electricity from manure using digesters installed at participating farms. Powell said that they now expect to offer it at smaller farms.
“We’re also working to figure out how to do it with food waste, local food waste,” she said. “That would be tremendous in helping to solve more than one problem.”
The effort would dovetail, she said, with an upcoming state regulation on the separation of food waste.
On the efficiency front, Powell said she hoped “ice-based energy storage” would prove to cut power use at peak times in the summer.
The idea, which the utility plans to try out at three or four city buildings, is to create large blocks of ice at night, when power costs are lower, and then use them to cool the buildings during the day. This would shift much of the power cost of air conditioning to the less expensive night hours.
Details on a number of the programs were sparse, as GMP officials said they were in the early stages.
Steve Costello, GMP’s vice president for generation and energy innovation, said the scale of the “energy park,” where visitors could see working examples of different renewable energy technologies, would depend on the location.
The “energy trail,” he said, would likely involve maps allowing people to navigate between sites in the city and educational materials placed at those sites.
Burying power lines would happen primarily in the downtown, Costello said, and be timed to coincide with local paving projects.
Similarly, while the exact locations are to be determined, Costello said he hopes to have three electric vehicle rapid-charging stations installed downtown in the next few months. Presently, the city only has one, located at the Stafford Technical Center.
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