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Gurnee restaurant plans to build wind turbine
By Bob Susnjara | Daily Herald Staff

This is an artist's rendering of a Chipotle Mexican Grill in Gurnee that'll have a wind turbine providing supplemental electricity.

 

Courtesy of Chipotle Mexican Grill

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Published: 9/19/2007 12:16 AM

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Chipotle Mexican Grill plans to open what it calls an environmentally friendly restaurant -- complete with a wind turbine in the shadows of a large electric transmission tower in Gurnee.

Plans call for the three-bladed, 6-kilowatt wind turbine to provide supplemental electricity to the Chipotle on Gurnee Mills' perimeter, just north of Grand Avenue near the Tri-State Tollway. The wind turbine will be on a 49-foot pole.

Gurnee's Chipotle will be the first of the chain's 650 stores to have a wind turbine as part of what company spokesman Chris Arnold said is a pilot project.

While there are some skeptics about Chipotle's use of the wind turbine, the plan is the latest example of how "going green" has become all the rage in various businesses.

Starbucks is offering a 10-cent discount for customers who tote a reusable mug for coffee. Some restaurants are selling grass-fed beef because grain purportedly requires too much energy to produce.

D. Joel Whalen, an associate professor in DePaul University's marketing department, said the green initiatives by businesses aren't only altruistic.

Chipotle's planned environmentally friendly restaurant in Gurnee can create images of cleanliness, good health and fresh food, Whalen said. That can bring more customers and profits.

"It might be (another) thing for a hardware store to say it's going green," he said.

Arnold said some companies trying to jump on the green bandwagon aren't sincere.

However, he said, Chipotle isn't on the ride simply for trendy marketing purposes, because its history includes using naturally raised meat and having energy-efficient buildings.

"I think ultimately consumers are pretty smart and they see through that 'greenwashing,' " Arnold said.

Gurnee village board members recently approved Chipotle's eatery, with the condition the wind turbine must be removed at the business' expense if it's not operating for more than 90 consecutive days.

Chipotle's wind turbine will stand under 115-foot-tall power lines owned by ComEd. Gurnee's acoustic consultant, Tom Thunder, found the wind turbine won't exceed village commercial noise limits.

Wind should generate about 10 percent of Chipotle's electricity, or about eight hours of lighting per day, according to the company.

But a national critic of the wind-energy industry doubts Chipotle will do much to reduce its reliance on conventional electricity in Gurnee.

Lisa Linowes, executive director of New Hampshire-based Industrial Wind Action Group, said Chipotle likely is seeking a marketing advantage with the wind turbine.

"They will have the symbolism of the wind turbine outside the restaurant to show the business is doing right by the environment," Linowes said. "If the intent was to lessen electricity use, they'd almost certainly do better by changing some of the light bulbs or decreasing their air conditioning use."

Chipotle representatives say the Gurnee store will have energy-efficient light fixtures and harvested rainwater for irrigation. Some recycled material will be used for the building's construction.