CURRYVILLE - As a farmer, Charlie Bloomquist always cared about the environment. Today, as a small animal veterinarian, he continues to do what he can to preserve natural resources.
Bloomquist, owner of Cove Veterinary Services, recently installed a 10-kilowatt solar panel system at his business on Route 866.
"We are just collecting sunlight. The impact on the environment is zero," Bloomquist said. "For me it was about stewardship of God's resources - both financial and environmental stewardship."
Born in Illinois and raised in Baldwinsville, N.Y., near Syracuse, Bloomquist came to the area in 1984 to take over a 400-acre farm that crosses the Blair and Huntingdon county line near Water Street.
A graduate of Cornell University's College of Veterinary Medicine, he also operated a mobile unit and visited area farms to treat large animals.
Bloomquist liked the farm - he spent 10 years there - but not enough to stay.
"I was never a real successful farmer. You work long hours for low pay. I was a part-time farmer; I would do vet calls and milk cows," Bloomquist said. "I said all I wanted to do was practice veterinary medicine, but I wanted to raise my family on a farm. The best crop that came off of the farm was my children."
In mid-1990s, Bloomquist switched gears and decided to focus on treating cats and dogs. That's when he opened his Curryville business.
Last summer, while attending Ag Progress Days, Bloomquist met representatives of Paradise Energy Solutions, a solar installation business headquartered in Gap, Lancaster County, and decided to move forward with his solar project.
The project cost $43,300, but with federal tax incentives, state tax incentives and bonus depreciation and various industry and state grants, the project will pay for itself in slightly more than seven years and provide Bloomquist with a 13.8 percent return on his investment.
"It was very environmentally friendly, and it made financial sense with the 30 percent tax credit. For my veterinary business, it was a no brainer," Bloomquist said.
The installation of the solar panels was completed in December, and the system was up and running in January, after Penelec installed his two-way meters.
"It is a 10-kilowatt solar system, which takes light and turns it into electricity. If I produce more electricity than I need, it goes back to the grid and they [Penelec] pay me for it," Bloomquist said. "Sometimes I will need to purchase electricity from the grid. In January I ended up paying them, but in the summer months, I will be sending electricity their way."
Completion of the project is good for Bloomquist, the environment and the agricultural community, said CEO Tim Beiler of Paradise Energy Solutions.
"Solar energy is allowing Cove Veterinary Services to operate with lower overhead and blesses the rural community with less [carbon dioxide] emissions. With the purchase of the solar array, Dr. Bloomquist produces his own power with free fuel. With greatly minimized utility costs, he can focus more of his attention to client needs and resources for the agricultural community that he serves," Beiler said. "He is also in a more financially stable position, since he is protected from rising electricity costs in the future."
Bloomquist said he expects his solar system to produce enough electricity to cover his electric bill for the next 25 years.
"It was an attractive investment for me. I hope more people look into doing this," Bloomquist said.