Soon drivers on I-294 will see a compilation of distinctive structures taking shape as they pass by the IBEW NECA Technical Institute (IN-TECH) campus 15 miles southwest of downtown Chicago. Among the curiosities will be towers, turbines, solar panels, and a building that looks like it was piloted rather than built.
Construction has begun on a renewable energy training field that IN-TECH will use to train union electricians in the latest sustainable technologies. When it finishes next spring, the project, designed by Legat Architects, will mark the largest outdoor training campus of its kind in the country and introduce one of the Midwest’s first net zero energy facilities (creates more energy than it consumes).
“It’s a place to maximize the skills of our apprentices and journeymen,” said IN-TECH Chairman and Local 134 Business Manager Terry Allen. “It’s also a regional demonstration site for the latest advances in sustainable technology.”
James J. McGlynn, Vice-Chairman of IN-TECH and President of McWilliams Electric noted, “Our contractors will have a competitive edge on the newest technologies.”
A Net Zero Energy Pioneer A glowing strip of LED lights will draw attention to the intriguingly-shaped new building. This 4,500-square-foot net zero energy building will house inverters and distribution equipment (and eventually, a pad that charges electric cars without plugging them in).
Alan Bombick, principal at Legat Architects, said, “The building’s design calls attention to the technology inside, which is at the forefront of power management techniques.”
Project Manager Rob Wroble added, “The building’s sloped roofs have sections clad in shingles and in metal panels so that the members of Local 134 can experience photovoltaic installations on different roof types.”
A ground-mounted solar field, about the size of a football field, will gather enough energy to not only power the new storage building and a welding lab in the institute’s main building, but it will also push excess energy back into the grid.
Additional highlights on the 25-acre field include: • A 100-foot-tall cell tower for climbing and mounting antennae. • A 60-foot-tall climbing tower for practice ascending wind turbines. • A solar car port that uses the sun’s energy to charge five electric vehicles. • A solar tracker on a rotating base that automatically follows the sun’s position. • A 75-foot-tall miniature wind turbine with a pole that tilts down so students can service the turbine on the ground.