State Treasurer Clint Zweifel (ZWY-ful) today visited State Fair Community College to help dedicate the new Energy Innovation Center, 24409 Oak Grove Lane. The Treasurer joined representatives from SFCC to speak about the importance of higher education in an economy being driven more and more by new science and technology.
“Everyone who worked on the Energy Innovation Center and supported it should be proud of what it means for Missouri jobs, training and opportunity,” Treasurer Zweifel said. “The EIC will strengthen this region economically and play a huge part in meeting Missouri’s changing energy needs.”
He added that the EIC is “very impressive, not only in the technology that is being utilized here, but really the relevance to the workforce for those who are being trained here.”
Zweifel noted that “the work that is happening at State Fair is an example of how community colleges can be pragmatic, but also inspiring at the same time, providing the needed skills to advance while encouraging instructors and students alike to continue to improve themselves in the communities around them.”
Public-private partnerships like this will play major role in the future of community college education, Zwiefel predicted, explaining that it ensures students have the desired skills and training for specific fields, help shape the economy and helps the workforce compete in ever-increasingly global market.
“The folks at State Fair are really on the front lines of access to higher education by providing students options an efficient, affordable education,” he said, adding that “community colleges are a story of opportunity and fulfillment.”
The Energy Innovation Center will focus on student experience, business development and new energy technology.
The Center converts methane gas from the Waste Corporation of Missouri. Inc., central landfill into electricity and provides hands-on training opportunities for students interested in the emerging alternative energy and biomass career fields. It also acts as an incubator for businesses looking to explore and develop new energy technologies.
“The Energy Innovation Center represents the real world opportunities students can find at Missouri community colleges,” Treasurer Zweifel said. “The education and experience students find at community colleges impact every sector of our economy, from manufacturing to agriculture, and the EIC brings great potential to this area as an emerging leader in alternative energy.”
Funding for the new Center comes from a variety of public and private grants, including a $1.6 million Community Development Block grant from the Missouri Department of Economic Development and $1.8 million from the U.S. Economic Development Administration.
SFCC’s Mark Kelchner credited David Albers for his efforts in the early stages of the project as renewable energy program coordinator. He also thanked Director John Burns and Operator Richard Downin for their expertise in the daily operations of the five-acre facility. He also thanked the SFCC students for their help. “It’s all about you,” Kelchner stated.
He went on to thank key operational partners KCP&L, Waste Corporation of Missouri and PPS Group.
SFCC President Dr. Joanna Anderson noted that the college is very responsive to the community. “So if you have a “napkin idea,” please bring it to us. We would like to help make it happen.”
On a tour of the facility, Downin likened the methane element at EIC to that of a combustible engine in your car. “It’s there to run the engine. The engine turns the generator, which produces electricity. In your car, you put gasoline to run your engine, which turns your alternator, your alternator produces electricity for your car. That’s exactly what we’re doing for the City of Sedalia,” he noted.
“In the landfill itself, as the material degrades, decomposes it, the microbes in the ground produce methane. What we’re burning is actually the methane mix, the methane is the combustible portion that we want,” Downin explained. The methane is literally pumped into the engine.
SFCC Vice President for Educational and Student Support Services Dr. Brent Bates noted that right from the start, the waste-to-energy project was a community-based collaborative venture. He listed some of the people responsible for the success of the program.
“With a grant in hand from the Missouri Department of Natural Resources through Randy White and the Pioneer Trails Regional Planning Commission, the project’s potential came closer to reality. With the hiring of Mike Nills and his firm, Spectrum Consulting Group, and his recommendation to focus on landfill gas. So other people joined the project, including Jeff and Cara Canon and staff of ProEnergy Services, Kevin O’Brien and Derek Stanley from Waste Corporation of America, and Mark Dawson and others with Kansas City Power and Light. John Meehan and the Pettis County Commission. Linda Christle with Sedalia Pettis County Economic Development Corporation. The City of Parsons and the mayor. Add to this group, people from State Fair Community College, including Dr. Ash, David Albers, the director of our program, Steve Snodgrass and Tammy Hamilton, faculty of our industrial maintenance program, Gary Sorrell, our vice president of Administrative Services, and Mark Kelchner, our dean of Workforce Innovation,” Dr. Bates said. Photos by Randy Kirby, Sedalia Weekly Observer.