Lawmakers hail new energy store

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SOUTH LONDONDERRY -- A sustainable energy retail store offering the latest in green and efficient power opened its doors Thursday, providing the business an opportunity to showcase the first electric vehicle charging station in southern Vermont.

Lawmakers and national renewable policy representatives attended the opening of Green Mountain Energy Vermont, located on Route 100 at the former site of Hayes Brothers Snowboards. The family business was hailed as part of a greater vision to maintain Vermont's status as a national leader in energy efficiency and give the state an advantage in the growing green sector industry.

"I think it's a really exciting day in that we have a grand opening of a new business and, in my view, any day that where we start a new business is really a great day and a reason to celebrate," said State Rep. Oliver Olsen, R-Jamaica. "But particularly, a business in the green sector. This is clearly -- not just here in Vermont but nationally and internationally -- recognized as a growing sector."

Olsen was on-hand to cut an electrical cord with Gov. Peter Shumlin and the Korpi family, which took a step back from their general contracting business to roll the dice on installing sustainable energy systems.

John W. Korpi, field operations manager with Green Mountain Energy, said cutting an electrical cord instead of a stereotypical red ribbon symbolized the company's commitment to renewable energy sources.

"We thought it would be great, with the solar panels and the wind power, to have it a little more off-the-grid," he said. "It's something different."

Shumlin said Vermont can win the "jobs race" as long as the state continues to open enterprises like Green Mountain Energy.

"This launching today, I wouldn't miss it for the world," he said. "I'm convinced that our best days in Vermont are ahead of us, not behind us, and it's because of this business. As we move to renewables, as we show the rest of the country how to do energy efficiency, putting money in Vermonters' pockets that otherwise would get shipped overseas to Saudi Arabia and other places, other people in other states are going to go, ‘Wow, they're getting it right in Vermont.'"

Morgan J. Korpi, John's son and sales representative for the company, said Green Mountain Energy offers installation of sustainable energy systems including, but not limited to, both thermal and photovoltaic solar and wind.

Meanwhile the retail aspect has products pertaining to maintenance of a "green, clean and efficient lifestyle."

"We're going to sell anything from solar lights to push lawnmowers that are out in the front. We're going to have as many things as we possibly could sell. But the main focus will be on the panels," said Morgan Korpi. "Green is probably the wave of the future, it should be the wave of the future, so we ran with it."

According to Olsen, the issue of renewable energy in Vermont is a fine example of bipartisanship.

"We may disagree on some of the finer points of the detail, but the goal is one that's shared by really everyone across party lines and Gov. Shumlin has certainly made renewable energy a part of his portfolio and has really been a leader on this issue," Olsen said.

Along with a variety of the company's retail products, Green Mountain Energy partners were on display. Those attending the event included Stiebel Eltron specializing in tankless electrical water heaters and Oak Energy Partners/U-Go Stations, a Philadelphia-based company that owns, operates and sells the charging units around the country.

The newest charging station is located right on the property in South Londonderry.

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"This is the first one in southern Vermont, it's one of the first ones in the entire state," said Ely Key, Director of Strategy for Oak Energy Partners/U-Go Stations. "We've got operations on the west coast. And we're trying to build out the structure so more electrical cars can get further."

Vermont is listed as a top five state for motorists driving electric cars.

The station, providing 220 volts an hour, can charge a car in one to four hours, depending on the amount of power left in the vehicle. With a full charge, a typical electric vehicle can travel between 50 and 80 miles, depending on weather and terrain.

Using the station is similar to a regular gasoline pump, only with an access fee, charged for connecting to the unit, that would range between $3.80 and $4.20.

Each station is hooked into a network allowing users the ability to locate any facility across the country.

Dave Soens, a managing partner with U-Go Stations, said the company is trying to help keep Vermont clean.

"Some of the steps that we have to take is building EV [electric vehicle] infrastructure to do that," he said. "EVs pollute less, they can be charged by renewable power. Matter of fact, 40 percent of all Nissan Leafs charge their cars with EV panels. Renewable works, not just for power for your home, but for your car now."

Shortly after cutting the cord, Shumlin chauffeured Olsen and State Sen. Peter Galbraith, D-Windham, around the neighborhood in the Chevrolet Volt provided by a Greenwich, N.Y., dealership for the grand opening. The Volt was charged at the company's station.

"It is really important that we move forward with this technology," Galbraith said. "This is just one example of the wonderful things that are happening."

As more electric cars are seen on the road, Green Mountain Energy will become a destination as a charging station, J. Korpi said.

"I think it's inevitable. It's going to take a few years to get going," he said. "I kind of want to leave this place a little better than I found it."

Before the property was a regional leader in sustainable energy, it was a massive clean-up project.

"The restoration was a massive undertaking. This building, for all intents and purposes, is all new," said Donna L. Korpi, systems & operations manager. In a little office space adjacent to the retail store, she shows reporters how the building looked prior to their renovations.

Reduced from 3,200 square-feet to 2,500, the site was initially part of the Alexander Farm before the property was divided and a manufacturing building was constructed.

Chris Garofolo can be reached at cgarofolo@reformer.com or 802-254-2311 ext. 275.


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