Denver Chipotle Mexican Grill said Tuesday it is partnering with Houston-based Standard Renewable Energy to install solar panels on approximately 75 Chipotle restaurants over the next year. In all, the chain has committed to panels that will produce 500 kilowatt hours of electricity, making Chipotle the largest direct producer of solar energy in the restaurant industry.
The goal, Chipotle said, is to reduce each restaurant’s energy consumption during peak hours -- 11 a.m. to 7 p.m. -- when pressure on the energy grid is the greatest. The amount of power produced through the solar program will eliminate more than 41 million pounds of CO2 emissions.
“Our effort to change the way people think about and eat fast food began with our commitment to serving food made with ingredients from more sustainable sources, and that same kind of thinking now influences all areas of our business," said Steve Ells, founder, chairman and co-CEO of Chipotle. "Today, we’re following a similar path in the way we design and build restaurants, looking for more environmentally friendly building materials and systems that make our restaurants more efficient."
The solar-panel installation has already begun on units in select cities, including Denver and the Texas cities of Austin, Dallas and San Antonio. The selection of the participating restaurants was based on evaluations of the individual location’s electricity consumption, local utility solar rebates and access to direct sunlight.
The solar initiative is one in a series of steps Chipotle has taken to reduce its carbon footprint. Chipotle was the first restaurant ever to receive Platinum level LEED certification - the highest level -- by the U.S. Green Building Council for its Gurnee, Ill., restaurant that features an on-site wind turbine and an underground cistern to harvest rainwater for irrigation.
In addition, all of Chipotle`s new restaurants include some environmentally friendly materials or systems, including low VOC paints and sealants, recycled drywall and stainless steel, photocell light controls that regulate electric lighting based on availability of natural lighting, or low-E window glass that helps reduce heating and cooling needs.