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Energy gust makes big savings a breeze

Generations of pupils have huddled against the cruel westerly winds which tear at Penlan comprehensive school on its exposed hilltop in south Wales.

Now the Swansea boys' school is set to harness those winds with its own wind turbine. It is estimated that the free power could save the cost of an extra teacher a year. There is potential for selling excess power to the National Grid, and the turbine will also be a resource for pupils.

The idea came from Swansea Council, which estimates a 200kw turbine could save Penlan up to Pounds 25,000 a year and believes the full cost - between Pounds 180,000 and Pounds 200,000 - could be met by European Commission grants.

The council was expected to approve the initial stages of a feasibility study and grant applications this week, and work could start next year.

Headteacher John Guy and the governors of 650-pupil Penlan have given their backing. The proposed site is on school-owned derelict land where a colliery once stood.

Mr Guy said: "It's very exciting. We're right at the top of a mountain and there's no impediment between us and the sea. The prevailing wind from the west should provide sufficient energy to drive a wind turbine, providing us with power and the boys with the chance of studying the machine, seeing how it produces energy at different wind speeds."

Other schools could also use the facilities. Atlantic College in Llantwit Major, South Wales, has done its own research on wind power and has expressed interest in helping Penlan.

Nick Goodall, chief executive of the British Wind Energy Association, believes Penlan could be the first of many schools to harness wind power. "It's not such an outlandish idea. You could soon find a school near you with a wind turbine of significant size."

Mr Guy said that it was too early to say whether the local authority or the school would benefit if excess power could be sold, but feasibility studies are being carried out.

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