By Derek Spellman

NEOSHO, Mo. — A proposed House bill would allot $1 million to Crowder College for construction of a new alternative-energy learning center, according to the office of U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt.

The funding for the planned Missouri Alternative and Renewable Energy Technology (MARET) Center is contained in a bill that has passed the House Appropriations Committee and now advances to the House and Senate, according to Blunt’s office. The MARET Center would be located on Crowder’s Neosho campus.

In a prepared statement, Blunt said the bill funds “research that will break our dependence on foreign oil” and “affirm the important work being done by Southwest Missourians.”

The MARET Center is likely to unfold in two phases, according to school officials.

Previously proposed elements for the first construction phase of MARET include an incubation center for new businesses; renewable-energy laboratories or workshops; office space; and space for the school’s construction technology program, which certifies students and also teaches them how to use alternative-energy and energy-efficient measures in construction.

Some of the suggested features for the building include a rooftop with a serrated, or “saw-toothed,” design to provide space for solar panels and solar reflectors. A wind turbine erected near the site could generate power for the building.

The second phase of the project is to consist largely of construction of a conference center.

Past estimates indicated both phases of the new MARET Center would cost a total of about $9 million, although the college is revisiting those estimates, and is constructing a prototype building to guide the final plans, according to Cindy Brown, the college’s director of public information.

C.J. Shannon, the college’s dean of extended campuses and economic development, said the projected costs will be developed by a team of experts who will “incorporate the latest technologies and educational tools in the curriculum and building designs.”

Shannon said the college hopes to hire a construction manager for both the construction and education components of the project this winter.

Brown said the college then hopes to be able to begin construction next year.

Funding for the project is to come from a combination of federal money and private donations.

Solar Challenge

Next week, Crowder College will be a Stage Stop on the North American Solar Challenge race. The race is a competition to “design, build and race solar-powered cars in a cross-country event” that begins Sunday in Plano, Texas, and ends July 22 in Calgary, Canada. Cars will arrive at Crowder late Sunday and into Monday before departing on Tuesday.

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