Getting your Evanston news from Facebook? Try the Evanston RoundTable’s free daily and weekend email newsletters – sign up now!

In the late 1970s, a group called Epoch B, wishing to foster interest in renewable energy, installed a small, 200-watt Windcharger and an anemometer on the roof of the Evanston Ecology Center, EEC, 2024 McCormick Blvd. The purpose was to demonstrate the feasibility of wind-power generation in a suburban setting. The small generator continued to operate for a few more years.

Bigger and better was on the minds of the Epoch B people in early 1981, when they entered into collaboration with pioneering local solar architect Rodney Wright and Professor Alan Kistler of Northwestern University’s School of Engineering to devise and implement a plan to install a much larger 4 kW Hummingbird wind generator on a 60-foot tower behind the EEC.

At the time, the Hummingbird represented state-of-the-art technology for small-scale power generation on farms and other remote applications, and this one worked well for a few years, saving the EEC $600-$800 per year in electricity costs. Although the internal electromechanical components have been removed, the tower and the generator still stand.

Building on past ideas, several proposals for Evanston’s energy future have arisen. The most logical proposal – the Lake Michigan wind farm – is indeed a very bold step forward from Evanston’s earlier experience with two small wind generators.