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NL resident finds solar power a hot commodity

Jason Hall building his energy business across the state of Iowa
Moxie Solar panels soak up energy on a Van Kooten hog farm just outside of Grinnell. (photo by Eric Hawkinson)

NORTH LIBERTY– Although solar power is not a novel idea, successfully harnessing the power of the sun requires sleek, cutting-edge equipment and software; and it’s not cheap. Markets in sunny California, Arizona, and Hawaii have become inundated with solar power industry, but the Midwest has yet to reach the same saturation.
North Liberty resident, and CEO of Moxie Solar, Jason Hall believes now is the time for his home state to begin utilizing the sun’s power for energy.
“We’re assuming now that Iowa is now ready to adopt this technology,” Hall said. “It makes sense.”
Hall, an Eastern Iowa native, said he got into the business when he realized the potential to improve the environment, and also help property owners save big on energy systems. Not only is solar energy becoming more efficient, Hall said, but it’s coming down in price, and all solar owners are eligible for large federal tax incentives. Currently, the state of Iowa offers rebates as large as $25,000 dollars to certain property owners that use solar energy.
“There’s no excuse for anyone in Iowa now, if they were interested in (solar energy), to not do it,” Hall said.
Hall started the business in North Liberty, and he said he hopes to grow the business locally. The manufacturing solar panels come from an outside source, but Moxie Solar provides start-to-finish solar education and installation. First, Moxie Solar staff will introduce the uninitiated to all things solar, including how it works and all its benefits. When an installation is desired– whether for residential or business clients– Moxie Solar will do everything from assess current utility consumption, determine the best location for the equipment, consider the structural integrity of existing structures for potential installation, and evaluate the compatibility and accessibility of existing electrical wiring from the solar array to the building’s main panel. Moxie Solar will also walk customers through the inter-connection process with their electric utility companies. The website even contains a free, downloadable coloring book to help teach kids the basics of solar energy.
Currently, there are six employees at Moxie Solar. Operations manager Tim Brodersen said he’s excited about bringing this industry into Iowa. Brodersen has seven-plus years of experience working with solar energy in Hawaii and Colorado.
“It’s a lot of fun working in a start-up area. It’s less new in Hawaii and Colorado,” Broderson said. “But in Iowa it’s still exciting.”
Hall said the best months in for sunlight are spring and fall and, while Iowa doesn’t get as much direct UV light as other states, that actually serves as an advantage for productivity.
“(Solar panels in other states) might get more sun, but if they heat up, they’ll actually be weaker in production,” Hall said.
Currently, Moxie Solar is installing massive solar panels on the farm property of Betty and Dean Van Kooten near Grinnell. At 120 kilowatts, Hall said it will be the largest privately owned solar system in the state. Hall said he can’t wait to see all the panels placed; and the excitement is infectious.
“It looks cool, it’s fun, it feels like you’re making a lot of progress, and everybody’s personality changes a bit once they start seeing those modules on there. They’re all upbeat, excited and giddy,” he said.
The Van Kooten farm is using the energy predominantly to offset the costs to heat and cool the hog barns. The main structure houses 4,500 pigs.
The process is a little different when Hall does an installation for a residential project. He said there are a couple houses in North Liberty with solar panels, including his own.
“For the average house, like mine, we’re not going to put these big panels on because it would just dwarf the house,” he said. “There are different types that are more aesthetically pleasing, let’s say.”
Hall worked as the president for a commercial bank, which for him was the typical nine to five job. The financial background helps him as a business owner, and has also helped him develop knowledge of things like tax credits, rebates and project financing, wisdom he can pass on to his solar customers.
His true passion, though, is for the outdoors, and Moxie Solar allows him to feel the sun on his face everyday.
“If I can feed my family off of doing something like this, man, I am in heaven,” Hall said.