With a massive computer-automated plasma cutting table, Pat Gehling can cut precise shapes out of slabs of metal up to three inches thick at his GehlPRO shop on the west side of Carroll.
With a massive computer-automated plasma cutting table, Pat Gehling can cut precise shapes out of slabs of metal up to three inches thick at his GehlPRO shop on the west side of Carroll.

February 28, 2018

There are more than 300 solar panels that now adorn the roof of GehlPRO Welding on the west side of Carroll, where workers melt, cut and bend metal to repair trailers and other farm equipment or make things like fire escapes.

That work takes a lot of electricity — about $700 worth each month.

So owners Pat and Sue Gehling decided to take advantage of their building’s massive size — the south-facing half of its roof is 150 feet long and more than 70 feet wide — and its sunny location. There are no nearby trees to block the sun.

The Gehlings hired Iowa Wind and Solar to install a massive solar array, which was designed to completely offset their electricity needs. It’s been operational since December.

“We’re just getting into where the (electricity) bills will be coming,” Sue Gehling said. “Hopefully it will get down to where we pay nothing except the monthly service fee.”

The Gehlings plan to host a customer-appreciation event from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday to mark their new solar panels and their four years in business. Pat Gehling has been welding and fabricating for a total of about three decades. GehlPRO is located just west of the intersection of U.S. Highways 30 and 71.

The Saturday event will have kids’ games, a welding competition and demonstrations of the company’s plasma table — a massive device that can cut shapes out of metal up to three inches thick.

“Anything you can draw on a computer, it can make,” Gehling said.

Jeremy Rierson, of Iowa Wind and Solar, will be there to promote the solar technology for other businesses and homes. He’s the guy who convinced the Gehlings to install their array.

It’s such a good deal right now,” Rierson said. “People who see that are like, ‘Wow, you get 40 percent back on your taxes.’ To a lot of people, it’s new. They want someone else to do it and see how it goes.”

Another solar-minded business owner in town, Adam Schweers, just surpassed one year with his 56-panel array on the roof of Computer Concepts in downtown Carroll.

His array has produced 23 kilowatt-hours, which outproduced his needs on one of his service lines and has yielded him electricity credits through MidAmerican Energy.

Schweers plans to slowly switch his fleet of company vehicles to electric cars that can use those credits, he said.

“It’s definitely been a good investment,” Schweers said. “As long as the state and (federal lawmakers) continue to support tax credits, solar has a bright future.”

Currently, the federal government grants a 30-percent tax credit on the cost of installing a solar system, and Iowa gives a 15-percent credit.

The tax credits were a major reason the Gehlings decided to go solar, but it helps that their panels will aid the environment. Less demand for electricity means less coal to be burned to produce it.

Who would have thought that a welding shop is going green?” Sue Gehling said.