By Morgan Theys
Special Contributor to Green Right Now

Eco-friendly parking has made its way to the resort community of Paradise Valley, just outside of Scottsdale, Ariz.

El Chorro restaurant in Scottsdale has made several energy efficiency changes.

El Chorro restaurant, popular with locals and the tourists who flock to the area’s golf courses and luxury hotels, has installed three electric car charging units in early January as part of its new sustainable design.

“With the changes in society, El Chorro managers started noticing the eco-friendly trends around the Valley,” said Lynita Johnson, account executive for El Chorro at Olson Communications.  “They wanted to make sure they addressed the potential needs that would be coming from current and future clients with electric cars.”

Johnson said the Blink charging stations have been the final step to the restaurant’s renovations, which began in 2009.  Charging electric cars like the Nissan Leaf and Chevy Volt, the Blink stations offer an hour’s worth of charge at a rate of $1.20.

“Installing charging stations are a driving force in the rollout of electric cars,” said Caitlin Cieslik-Miskimen, spokesperson for ECOtality, a leader in clean electric transportation and storage technologies.

In 2009, the U.S. Department of Energy awarded $114.8 million to ECOtality for the Blink electrical charging stations.  The company and its partners will match that with an investment grant of $230 million to distribute 14,000 charging stations in 18 cities located in Arizona, California, Washington, Oregon, Utah, Tennessee, New York and Washington, D.C.

Many local businesses in Arizona have stepped forward to host the Blink charging stations.  There are currently eight stations located in Paradise Valley and Scottsdale.

Blink charging station.

According to ECOtality, a network of more than 5,000 charging stations has been installed nation-wide for residential and commercial use.  About 1,290 stations are found in front of local businesses, restaurants and car dealerships.

“The Blink stations offer additional services to current customers and also expands a business’s customer base,” Cieslik-Miskimen said. “In addition to attracting more customers, local businesses want greener practices.”

Emily Rosen, a Phoenix native and customer of El Chorro, believes that the installation of charging units is a necessity in the Valley.

“It’s a perfect way for people to meet up, grab dinner and enjoy a night out while you’re charging your car,” Rosen said.  “More stations should be installed in order for our infrastructure to support the future of sustainable practices in personal transportation.”

El Chorro became the first restaurant in Arizona to earn the US Green Building Council’s Leadership in Environmental and Energy Design (LEED) Gold Certification, a universally recognized green-building rating system.  The Gold Certification is the second-highest level attainable.

As part of the renovations of the historic facilities, the restaurant has incorporated a number of green-building features, including a solar-energy heating system that reduces the restaurant’s energy use by more than 50 percent.  More than 75 percent of the materials used in the redesign were recovered from the original infrastructure.  In addition to the Blink electric car charging stations, El Chorro has added a solar-energy water heating system and eco-friendly insulation made of recycled blue jeans.

“It has already completed renovations that make sense to the property and its clients,” Johnson said.  “El Chorro will continue to pursue new advancements as they come about.”

(Morgan Theys is a student at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.)