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Chipotle commits to solar power

DENVER Chipotle Mexican Grill Inc. plans to install solar panels on about 75 of its restaurants during the next year in an ongoing effort to create a more eco-friendly chain, the company said Tuesday.

The parent to about 886 fast-casual restaurants has partnered with Standard Renewable Energy, a company based in Houston, to install the panels, which will produce an estimated 500 kilowatt hours of electricity.

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, potentially eliminating more than 41 million pounds of carbon dioxide, or CO2, emissions.

Chipotle joins a growing number of restaurant chains that also have taken steps to become more environmentally friendly, or green, including Arby’s, Carl’s Jr., Subway and Yum! Brands Inc. subsidiaries KFC, Taco Bell and Pizza Hut. Officials at Chipotle say their commitment to solar power will make the chain the largest direct producer of solar energy in the restaurant industry.

“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,” Steve Ells, Chipotle’s founder, chairman and co-chief executive said in a statement. “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. Selection of participating units was based on evaluations of the individual restaurant’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, for example, was one of the first restaurants to receive the highest level LEED, or Leadership in Energy and Environment Design, certification by the U.S. Green Building Council for a unit in Gurnee, Ill. That restaurant has an on-site wind turbine and underground cistern to harvest rainwater for irrigation.

All new Chipotle restaurants also aim to use environmentally friend materials or systems, including paints and sealants with low VOCs, or volatile organic compounds, as well as recycled drywall and stainless steal, regulated lighting and insulated window glass.

Contact Lisa Jennings at [email protected].

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