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Mill Will Fill Bill To Kill Chill

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The winters can get pretty cold in Adams, Mass., a small town nestled on a hillside in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains.

During the colder months, the all-electric, 1,000-student Hoosac Valley High School is battered by strong northwestern winds and often runs up a monthly electric bill in excess of $20,000. Because the3school sits on a hillside that faces west, the wind whisks down the face of the mountain on the opposite side, across the valley floor, and right smack into it.

According to Thomas Condrum, the school's principal, the annual electric bill often exceeds $100,000 and strains the small school district's budget. But instead of merely complaining about the weather, school officials are attempting to use it to their advantage.

Jack Cox, a local engineer and the school's conservation consultant, got an idea for a way to convert its topographical handicap into an asset. He applied and has received preliminary approval for an $89,000 grant from the state's office of energy research to build a series of windmills to meet the school's energy needs.

While the plans are still on the drawing board, Mr. Cox has arranged with Mr. Condrum to have one of the high school's science classes conduct feasibility studies next fall using wind-monitoring devices perched atop a 90-foot tower.

If the plan proves feasible, Mr. Cox said, a single windmill could provide 10 percent of the school's energy needs. Mr. Cox estimates that each windmill would pay for itself in 10 years. While it follows that 10 windmills would provide 100 percent of the school's energy needs, Mr. Cox's goal is modest: "Our eventual aim is to generate 75 percent of our own power," he said.

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