By Bill DiBenedetto | July 17th, 2012
Say you’re driving your electric vehicle somewhere in Illinois, and in the distance you spot a huge wind turbine. Driving further you see that the turbine is not on a hill with a bunch of others in neat rows, churning away like they do.
Wait. It looks like it’s in a parking lot.
You decide to investigate and soon discover to your surprise and delight — because you are both hungry and in need of a charge — that you’ve arrived at the Great Escape Restaurant.
Actually it’s not a dream or some fantasy game with a green theme; the restaurant is in Schiller Park and it uses a 108KW wind turbine the owners installed in 2009 to supply up to 70 percent of the electric power — depending on wind conditions — used in the business, which includes Fish Fry Friday and Saturday’s ever-popular Prime Rib Nite.
The wind turbine actually has the capacity to supply 120 percent of the electric needs of the restaurant. The 80-foot tower, with three 32-foot blades, cost $375,000 to build in 2009. The restaurant owners mortgaged their building in order to finance the project, which began in 2007.
The Great Escape’s unused power goes to ComEd to supplement the power needs of the community. The turbine can provide enough clean energy to power more than 30 homes, depending on wind speed — and now can power electric vehicles, too.
The latter is a recent development; the restaurant hired EV Connect to deploy publicly-accessible EV charge stations that are directly linked to the wind turbine. Drivers can park and charge up their EVs for free at the restaurant.
“Someone’s got to make the leap and do right by the environment to reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. We decided to set an example,” says Brian Great, the restaurant’s owner, in a statement. In the long run it saves money, he continues. “If a small business can take action and be a proponent of clean energy, others can do the same thing.”
EV Connect CEO Jordan Ramer said that providing accessible charging infrastructure at a variety of locations “helps alleviate range anxiety and increases EV adoption.” The company works with homeowners, hotels, municipalities and transit agencies to help install that infrastructure.
So say it’s a Tuesday when you pull into the Great Escape parking lot — you’ve arrived just in time to quaff the $5 22-ounce Draft Beer special while your EV also gets juiced.
There is a budding clean energy economy out there that’s possible even for small businesses, ones like a restaurant in Illinois.