One year ago, local leaders announced, with much fanfare, plans to bring a center for developing alternative energy to the stateline. But how much progress has really been made on Freedom Field?
The site on the south side of Rockford Airport property looks much the same as it did last year, except the ground is a little more torn up and a couple tractors and backhoes dot the field.
Winnebago County Board Chairman Scott Christiansen says the plan's feasability study is taking longer than expected.
"When we start using Freedom Field, which is so close to actually part of our airport, that we've got to have clearances and none of which have seemed to have been a big problem, it just takes some time to get through all that," says Chairman Christiansen.
He adds that despite falling behind in some areas of the project, there are real signs of progress.
"We're starting to do some initial cleanup and preparation of the site so that's actually a little ahead of schedule," says Christiansen.
He hopes all the funding and technology will be in place by the end of the summer to begin researching, generating and selling alternative energy from Freedom Field. He says one project is already in the works, and though he can't give out any details just yet, he's confident Freedom Field is inching toward the goal of, not only making and selling renewable energy, but providing a center of excellence.
There, Christiansen explains, "Anyone could come with a certain process, whether that be solar, wind, methane or hydrogen for example and they could bring that process there and use this center to refine it with the technology that will be there."
Christiansen says Freedom Field would put the Rockford area in a unique position in the region to provide businesses with renewable energy. He says interest is high. There's even talk of parternering with Swedish businesses.
Final plans include a research facility and solar and wind power eqipment. Total costs are estimated at three to four million dollars. Key participants include Winnebago County, Rockford Airport, multiple area universities and Hamilton Sunstrand.