by Joe Bollig
BALDWIN — When it comes to help with the electric bill, the members of Annunciation Parish here lift their eyes to a higher power.
That would be to the solar panels on the roof.
Annunciation will save $4,000 a year annually on its electric bill thanks to solar panels donated by parishioners Dave and Pam Hill. Not only did they donate the panels, which are worth about $30,000, but they also donated the cost of installation.
The panels were installed at the end of September and will begin to snatch energy from the sun by mid-October. The work was done by Cromwell Environmental of Lawrence.
The Hills approached pastor Father Jomon Palatty, MSFS, about the donation of the panels in March.
“I was so surprised,” said Father Jomon. “Installing the solar panels would cost a lot, and our parish is not capable of [paying for] the panels and installation. It was a great consolation. I was really surprised to hear about the free installation.”
One parishioner told Father Jomon how impressed he was with the gift.
“I will never forget the expression,” said Father Jomon. “He said, ‘Wow, what a great gift. We are blessed, Father.’”
Dave Hill is president of Mid America Bank, and the panels were donated as part of an upgrade of the roof at the bank’s Baldwin location. Hill has solar panels on all five of the bank’s locations.
“What inspired [the donation] was the fact that when you buy solar panels, you get three benefits: tax credits, deduction for depreciation and the energy savings,” said Hill.
“So, we as a bank were able to receive those three benefits. We felt it was time to upgrade [to new panels] for the tax credits and depreciation, and we could donate [the old ones] to a nonprofit that can’t capitalize on the tax credits and depreciation.”
His parish is, of course, his favorite nonprofit institution so he and his wife donated the solar panels to Annunciation.
The solar panels have a 30-year warranty and Hill estimates they have about 20 years remaining. They will cover 80% of the parish’s electric needs.
Baldwin has its own power plant and has “net metering.” That means the excess power produced by the solar panels during the day is sent to the power grid and, during the night, the church draws power from the grid. The system has no batteries.
“The solar panels are installed on the roof and have a great south-facing orientation,” said Hill. “We have a metal roof, so installation was easy.”
Hill is a believer in the benefits of solar panels and hopes that the experience of Annunciation Parish will inspire other parishes to also consider solar panels.
“It’s the right thing to do from an environmental standpoint but also an economic standpoint,” said Hill.
Dan Himmelberg, director of real estate and construction for the archdiocese, provided oversight and inspection of the project. The archdiocese doesn’t keep track of which archdiocesan buildings have solar panels, but they are very few.
“The newest installation we have [for solar panels] is the new academic building at Donnelly College in Kansas City, Kansas,” he said.
He called the new solar panels at Annunciation a “great win-win for everyone.”