Freedom field update

StoryImage( ‘/Images/Story//Auto-img-117873048530978.jpg’, ‘Image provided.’, ‘Freedom Field will serve as a prototype for energy experimentation and development.‘);

The Rock River Times Editor & Publisher Frank Schier and we recently met with Scott Christiansen, chairman of the Winnebago County Board, and Steven Moss of Hamilton Sundstrand, a contributor to the revised Freedom Field Energy Project, for an update on its progress. The project has changed considerably since its inception. It was originally planned as the first stop on Illinois’ hydrogen highway, using solar and wind power to produce hydrogen for fuel cells. It now incorporates additional energy options and technologies and places more emphasis on providing opportunities to demonstrate and test innovative energy technologies “for the benefit of our society’s economic and environmental well-being.” (from Freedom Field’s Mission Statement)

Ongoing interchanges with a Swedish delegation provide additional ideas and motivation for the project. Sweden recycles 95 percent of its waste materials and is working toward becoming a sustainable society, moving out of fossil fuels between 2020 and 2030. The keynote speaker for this year’s Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair, Torbjorn Lahti, has assisted with the development of more than 60 Eco-municipalities there.

Supported by funds provided by U.S. Rep. Don Manzullo and Winnebago County, Freedom Field is moving forward. About a dozen governmental and private entities are cooperating to assure the energy project succeeds. A non-profit organization will be created to help support energy experimentation, technologies integration and systems demonstrations. Waste heat reclamation and biomass will produce electricity and heat buildings. A micro-grid is envisioned. Outreach to schools and the general public will keep people informed of exciting new energy developments.

The three major projects include the Main Operations Site at the Airport, the Rock River Water Reclamation Energy Project and the Winnebago Reclamation Energy Project (landfill). The main Technology Center will include workrooms, classrooms, offices, conference areas, laboratories, a greenhouse and solar thermal collectors for concentrating sunlight. A complex flow of energy between sunlight, hot water, cold water, building heating and cooling, biomass and electric power are planned. The project should be commissioned and ready to operate by November 2008.

The Water Reclamation project will work with the municipal waste water treatment plant. Waste heat from existing engines will be captured and used for electricity for on-site buildings and hot water for heating on-site buildings and possibly nearby industry and residences. Payback for the investment is expected within five years.

The Landfill project will also produce a chain of energy actions. Currently wasted landfill gas will be used to run existing engines. Freedom Field plans to capture the waste heat from these engines to produce electricity, which can be used on-site or sold back to the grid. An envisioned micro-grid could sell electrical and heat energy to nearby consumers. Revenues will be reinvested into the project.

Additional projects may include producing electricity, heat or fuel from blue algae, switchgrass, roadside grasses and weeds, and other sources.

It is rewarding to know that some of the suggestions that Frank Schier, we and many others made several years ago are being implemented and expanded upon by local energy engineers. A significant step toward establishing a new energy model in the Rockford area, Freedom Field will serve as a prototype for energy experimentation and development. As Moss commented, “Have an idea? Bring it to Freedom Field!”

Drs. Robert and Sonia Vogl are founders and officers of the Illinois Renewable Energy Association and coordinate the annual Renewable Energy and Sustainable Lifestyle Fair. They have 3.2 kW of PV and a 1 kW wind generator at their home. Forty acres of their 180-acre home farm are in ecological restorations. They are also active in preserving natural areas. They are retired professors from Northern Illinois University.

from the May 2-8, 2007, issue

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