Wednesday was the day for making a change, and with the flip of a switch, Palmer Animal Hospital said goodbye to its electric bill.

One hundred and fifty new solar panels installed by Paradise Energy Solutions are now soaking in sunshine and offsetting almost all of the 5,000-square-foot facility’s electrical costs. Owner and veterinarian Philip Palmer gathered with representatives from the company on Wednesday to ceremonially turn on the array.

“I’ve been really happy so far,” Palmer said before flipping the switch. “I can’t wait to turn it on.”

The animal hospital near Myersville racks up an annual electrical bill of approximately $8,000, Palmer said. It sees between 20 and 30 cats or dogs a day, performs surgeries and has a 20-dog kennel for boarding, which all needs to be lit, heated and cooled.

Palmer opened the animal hospital in 1991 and splits his time between appointments and surgeries. He moved the hospital from a rental space in Myersville to the facility in 2003, and with the bigger space came a bigger electric bill.

In the winter, the animal hospital’s electric bill can be between $450 and $500 a month, while summer cooling costs can stretch up into the $800 to $1,000 range, he said.

“It’s basic mechanical stuff that drive that, not medical stuff,” Palmer said.

Two years ago, the staff changed all 280 light bulbs in the building from fluorescent to more energy-efficient LEDs, and reduced the number of times maintenance workers had to come and fix the lights, he said.

Earlier this year, Paradise Energy Solutions cold-called the animal hospital to see if it would be interested in going solar, and as Palmer reviewed the business’s taxes, he said the the idea made financial sense.

Two long rows of solar panels now sit alongside the animal hospital at the top of the south-facing hill. The location was ideal for solar power and should produce 99 percent — if not more — of what the animal hospital needs.

The array qualifies for a federal tax credit and state commercial grant, said Brian Foltz, a solar consultant with Paradise Energy Solutions. The animal hospital can also write off 80 percent of the array’s depreciation over time.

With all the tax benefits rolled into the price of the array, Palmer anticipates breaking even on his purchase in seven years. At that point, the animal hospital will be paying just connection fees and potentially seeing a check from the utility when it over-produces electricity.

The energy produced at Palmer Animal Hospital’s solar array will offset the equivalent of 45.3 tons of carbon dioxide each year or be the same as saving 1,054 trees annually.

Paradise Energy Solutions operates in multiple states and has offices in Thurmont and Salisbury. The company hosts “flip the switch” parties to celebrate its completed installations with their customers.

“We think it’s significant,” Foltz said. “He made a very sound environmental decision for his business.”

Follow Samantha Hogan on Twitter: @SAHogan.

Samantha Hogan is the state house, environment, agriculture and energy reporter for The Frederick News-Post.

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