Darden Restaurants Inc., parent company of the Olive Garden and Red Lobster chains, will install 1.1 megawatts of solar panel roofing at its Orlando, Fla.-based corporate center.
The project at Darden’s Restaurant Support Center will make it Florida’s largest private solar array, and will generate enough power to subsidize 15 percent to 20 percent of the center’s annual power usage. That’s the equivalent of taking the campus off the grid for nearly two months a year, Darden officials said Monday.
"As a company, preserving our resources for future generations has always been a priority," Drew Madsen, Darden chief operating officer, said in a statement. "The decision to install solar panels is just the latest step in our strategy to reduce the energy and water consumption of our business in the communities where we operate."
When it’s finished later this year, Darden's rooftop solar installation is expected to produce up to 1.9 million kilowatt-hours of electricity per year. That equals the average annual energy usage of about 163 homes, and the reduction of carbon emissions by more than 1,300 metric tons annually, company officials said.
Darden's facility, opened in September 2009, is the largest building in Florida to receive Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) Gold certification for new construction. The building complex already includes energy-efficiency features, such as windows that let in daylight but not heat, a U-shaped floor plan that limits western exposures, and motion sensors to turn off lights in unused rooms. And by using reclaimed water at the center, Darden has saved more than 16 million gallons of drinking water in the past year.
"Darden is a prime example of a company fully committed to sustainability," said Rob Caldwell, vice president of efficiency and innovative technology for Progress Energy, a Raleigh, N.C.-based utility company. "We commend them for that, and we are pleased to support their investments in alternative energy and energy efficiency."
Darden Restaurants operates more than 1,900 restaurants under the Olive Garden, Red Lobster, LongHorn Steakhouse, Seasons 52, The Capital Grille and Bahama Breeze brands.