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Crowder's renewable energy center nears completion

NEOSHO, Mo. (AP) — A new $7 million-plus renewable energy center at Crowder College in southwest Missouri is nearing completion.

The Joplin Globe reports that (http://bit.ly/sOMg5a) the Missouri Alternative Renewable Energy Technology Center is expected to be the only one of its kind on a college campus in the country.

Final touches on the 27,000-square-foot MARET Center are under way. Once the center is up and running sometime during the upcoming spring semester, the only similar center in the U.S. will be the U.S. Department of Energy's Renewable Energy Lab in Golden, Colo., said Russell Hopper, executive director.

Hopper said the center will be a technology demonstration laboratory and that many of the green technologies used in the building will remain exposed as an educational resource for students and professors. The center will produce more energy than it uses, he said. The surplus energy will be sold to Empire District Electric Co., Crowder's electrical-service provider.

After being authorized for a $5.39 million grant by the Department of Energy in 2008, the construction, which was scheduled to begin in the spring of 2009, was delayed by an environmental assessment and concern by the U.S. Department of Fish and Wildlife that construction could harm the Ozark cavefish, an endangered species native to the caves and springs in the area. Crowder finally got the green light in October 2010 and broke ground on the building in March.

Hopper said under ideal conditions, the building will generate about six kilowatts per hour of electricity from the 290 solar panels arrayed on its roof, and about 65 kilowatts per hour from the large wind turbine located just in front of the building. He said the structure will also save energy by using geothermal techniques that tap into the constant temperature of the Earth to either heat or cool the building.

Rain barrels surrounding the building will catch rainwater runoff to irrigate the building's lawn. The center will also incorporate hybrid solar cells, which provide both heat and electric power. Hopper said the hybrid cells, which were developed at Crowder, represent a major advancement in solar technology.

Hopper said the MARET Center will play an important role as the U.S. tries to stay in the forefront of the worldwide race to develop renewable energy.

"If we develop it here, we will have the wherewithal then to utilize it without having to pay extra, so schools like Crowder, Missouri S&T, Cal Tech, MIT and Stanford are the engine of innovation, and we need to maintain that," he said.


Information from: The Joplin Globe, http://www.joplinglobe.com

Online:

Missouri Alternative Renewable Energy Technology Center

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