If you build it, they will come.
That’s akin to the mystical message at the heart of the popular 1989 movie “Field of Dreams,” where an Iowa farmer – played by Kevin Costner – plows down his corn to build a baseball field, which becomes its own slice of heaven for the ghosts of pro players who have long since passed.
Chicago Local 134 assistant training director Harry Ohde may not be a farmer, but he is a key part of the IBEW team building its own field of dreams for electricians looking to learn about green technologies.
The new renewable energy training field at the IBEW-NECA Technical Institute – or IN-TECH, as it’s known – will be a sprawling campus 15 miles southwest of downtown, boasting photovoltaic, wind, building automation and smart metering facilities.
And when it opens this fall, Ohde says the electricians will come.
“We want to open the training field to other IBEW locals whether they are in Illinois or elsewhere,” said Ohde, who has helped train electricians since 1995. “We want this training field to be the IBEW’s nationally recognized training facility for renewables.”
On the campus, a 100-foot cell tower rises over the landscape, which students will use to practice climbing and mounting antennae, a potentially dangerous task. Nearby, a 60-foot wind turbine and a massive solar array not only offer training opportunities, but they help contribute to the center’s status as a net-zero facility – meaning that all power consumed by IN-TECH is provided by the technology generated there, with no carbon emissions. Other features include rooftop mounted solar panels, a solar carport and more.
With many companies going greener, IBEW contractors are looking to man more jobs, and the training that IN-TECH offers is particularly suited for that.
“We are hoping that more contractors will bring potential customers to visit and see firsthand all of the renewable energy options,” Ohde said. “It can help show the customer that green technologies are the way to go if they are installed and maintained properly by IBEW electricians.”
| An artistic rendering of the finished project, courtesy of Legat Architects
The facility was designed by Legat Architects, an area firm that prides itself on its green construction methods.
“It’s the only place [electricians] can learn how to do all these different things,” said lead architect Alan Bombick. “Other sites are exhibits, where this offers a real demo.”
Ohde said the local is also in talks with an area community college to develop a certificate program for students learning renewables. The program could dovetail with the local’s existing apprenticeship program, he said.
“IBEW 134 members are extremely excited about this cutting edge technology project,” Ohde said.
Learn more at www.ejatt.com.