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Rock Valley College Becoming a Living Laboratory

Rock Valley College (RVC) is an early adopter of sustainability education and practices. RVC has implemented a wide array of behavior changes on campus that have greatly reduced energy consumption. The college also offers students a robust set of courses leading to a degree in Sustainable Energy Systems (SES) design. Now Rock Valley College is making great strides as it embraces the “living lab” concept.

In partnership with Freedom Field Renewable Energy (FFRE),  RVC students are able to gain knowledge and experience at a state-of-the-art sustainable energy lab. Among the technologies in use at FFRE are:

  • Ground mounted solar arrays
  • 5 KW solar array
  • A Windspire Vertical Axis Wind Turbine
  • A Bergey 10KW Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine

Students are able to work with the systems including design, monitoring and testing. “I think when people can tangibly touch it, feel it, talk to the people that are using it, they become more confident, they become more trusting in what’s happening,” said Chet Kolodziej, Executive Director with Freedom Field Renewable Energy.

Rock Valley College is in the sixth successful year of its Renewable Energy Integrator program. Renewable Energy Integrators are system designers who are well-versed in comprehensive renewable energy solutions for residential and small-business applications. An essential component of this program is a meaningful internship. This gives the students the opportunity to obtain valuable hands-on experiences and develop project management skills.

Sustainability professionals at RVC are in the process of designing an initiative called “Lunch and Learn.” This pairs faculty members and the Physical Operations and Maintenance division personnel with students who are then taken through RVC’s extensive array of infrastructure and shown the technologies and practices used at RVC.

“The concept of the living lab provides wonderful cohesion around many of the things we do here at Rock Valley,” said Stephen R. Fleeman, Associate Professor, Academic Chair of Electronic Engineering Technology and Sustainable Energy Systems Woodward Technology Center.  “We look forward to expanding it and pursuing those benefits for our students and our community.”

Freedom Field Renewable Energy is a not-for-profit entity supported by Winnebago County under the direction of Chairman Scott Christiansen.

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