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PSU helps community compete in statewide energy challenge

August 15, 2011 12:00AM

Pittsburg State University students and employees are taking part in a competition that could result in a $100,000 energy efficiency prize to improve the Pittsburg community.

The Take Charge Challenge, a statewide initiative to encourage residents to find ways to conserve more energy in their homes, will run through September when the winners are announced. Sponsored by the Kansas Energy Office and coordinated by the Climate and Energy Project, the competition has expanded in its second year from six communities to 16.

In Southeast Kansas, those communities include Pittsburg, Parsons, Fort Scott, Chanute and Iola, each of which has received $25,000 in block grants to host the challenge. Coordinated in these communities by Abby Olcese, daughter of PSU International Affairs Director Chuck Olcese, the competition in Pittsburg has included energy-efficient light bulb giveaways, information booths at community fairs, and plans for the installation of weatherization kits in Pittsburg homes.

"Everyone comes up with such interesting ideas each meeting that I get excited every time," said Olcese, the Southeast Kansas Regional Coordinator of the Take Charge Challenge. "It's exciting to see so many people be so enthusiastic."

Communities participating in the challenge will be judged on how much residents conserve energy this year. Measuring is done in three ways: the total number of light bulbs switched to high-efficiency bulbs in homes, energy savings calculated from home energy audits done through Efficiency Kansas, and the number of people exposed to information about the challenge and its mission.

In addition to setting up booths at Meadowbrook Mall and at PSU featuring free light bulb exchanges and home energy audit information, the group is also planning to reach out to residents during PSU's annual Big Event, scheduled for April 9.

"At PSU, sustainability efforts aren't just about the campus," said Brian Peery, PSU sustainability coordinator. "We're a charter member of the STARS (Sustainability, Tracking and Rating System) program, and that requires our efforts to include community involvement. And PSU is a very large part of this community."

Olcese said the group hasn't yet discussed how it would use the $100,000 prize should Pittsburg win, but that she's encouraged by their efforts thus far.

"It's just a matter of keeping the momentum going," she said. "The most important thing is to know that the city and its residents have taken part. As long as we can get people to make some changes in their homes and lives, then we've done a good job."

For more information on the Take Charge Challenge, contact Olcese at

©2011 Pittsburg State University