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Prichard Law Office ‘goes green’ with solar panels

Prichard Law Office ‘goes green’ with solar panels
Charles City’s Todd Prichard stands next to the array of solar panels he had installed last year on the roof of his law office in downtown Charles City. (Press photo James Grob.)
By James Grob,

Charles City’s Todd Prichard is proud of his solar array, but he never gets to show it off.

That’s because it’s all on the roof, out of sight, and no one knows it’s there.

Prichard, a Charles City attorney and Iowa legislator, had the solar panels installed on the roof of his law office at 103 N. Main St. last year.

“Solar energy is always a big topic of discussion in the Legislature, but it’s also something I’ve been interested in for a long time,” Prichard said. “I actually learned about the financial aspects of it while seeing what people are doing in the agricultural industry.”

Prichard said he has several clients and friends with solar arrays.

“In Iowa, it’s been the ag sector — mostly pork producers — who use a lot of solar on their farms and buildings,” he said. “Pork producers have been some of the biggest advocates for solar energy.”

More and more Iowa farmers are “going green” in order to cut long-term costs as well as reduce fossil fuel consumption. Iowa is in the top third of states for harnessing energy from solar arrays. This is largely due to new technology, increased production of arrays, and tax incentives that have lowered the initial costs of solar investment.

The 60 panels on Prichard’s office roof were installed by SiteGen Solar, a subsidiary of Paulson Electric of Cedar Rapids, and the solar array has been in production for well over a year now.

“The nice thing is, you use most of your energy on hot days when the air conditioner is running,” Prichard said. “Those are also the days when you produce the most energy.”

Prichard said it has cut his electric bill in half and he gets a credit from the utility company based on how much energy he produces.

Prichard can track what the panels are doing on his phone. An app tells him the rate of energy being created at any given time. At about 1 p.m. on Wednesday this week, on a sunny autumn day, it was 10.7 kilowatts an hour.

“This is prime time for this time of year,” Prichard said.

The app also tells Prichard day-by-day, week-by-week and month-by-month statistics. The panels cost about $50,000 to install, but Prichard said he should save that much in 8-10 years, and panels should work for about 30 years before they will start to need replacing.

He also said that there are many incentives in place, such as low-interest loans and up-front tax credits, to make installation more affordable.

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