Moxie employees start again with True Solar Iowa

Former COO tries to recapture Moxie magic while Jason Hall eyes manufacturing future

True Solar Iowa says they won't exponentially grow like Moxie Solar, but some people are wary of the company's sudden introduction into the solar marketplace. CREDIT TRUE SOLAR IOWA
True Solar Iowa says they won't exponentially grow like Moxie Solar, but some people are wary of the company's sudden introduction into the solar marketplace. CREDIT TRUE SOLAR IOWA

Just one day after New Moxie Solar closed its doors, a new business entity called True Solar LLC was filed with the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

The new company is called True Solar Iowa, and former Moxie COO Travis Eichelberger is the company’s CEO. Many former Moxie Solar employees now work for True Solar.

Mr. Eichelberger said he found out New Moxie ownership closed its doors and laid off all employees on Dec. 2, leaving him very surprised, he said.

“We had customers reaching out, wondering how they can get their system finished and stuff like that,” he recalled. “So a group of employees, including myself, got together about the week after everything was closed down and talked through it.”

He insists there is no commonality of ownership between Jason Hall or Lorentzen Investments and True Solar Iowa.

The company’s goal is simple: Avoid Moxie’s pitfalls.

“Unfortunately, we have seen first-hand how many solar companies come and go, cut and run, promise the world and then disappear,” a statement reads on True Solar’s website. “You can rest assured when you choose us for your solar energy project that you are in good hands. We don’t want to grow exponentially to make more money. We just want to be sustainable, and do a good job.”

In the weeks after Moxie’s closing, Mr. Eichelberger said customers have reached out to True Solar with concerns about their Moxie installation progress. As of Jan. 20, eight customers agreed to take their business from Moxie to True Solar Iowa. 

“In most cases, True Solar has not proactively reached out to customers,” he said.

True Solar does offer solar financing through holding companies, he confirmed in an email. Unlike Moxie, True Solar is a member of the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association.

The upstart team is expecting to move into a space in Tiffin this month. But can customers trust True Solar to not lead customers astray, as Moxie did in its last 18 months?

True Solar Iowa CEO Travis Eichelberger. CREDIT THE ORG
True Solar Iowa CEO Travis Eichelberger. CREDIT THE ORG

“Overall, the reception [between customers] has been pretty good for the most part just because we’re offering some level of solution, and at least being a voice that can hear them out.

“I think we all remember what it took to be really good, which is what we did,” he added. “Back when Moxie was smaller, if we ever had a customer that had a concern…we were able to react very quickly and stay focused.”

Jeremy Zumbach, a Marion-based Moxie customer owed $30,800, said he will not be enlisting True Solar to finish his solar project.

“Once I get bit once, I don’t stick my hand back in the basket to get bit by the snake again,” he said. “So I turned them down.”

Bram Williams, the initial candidate for Moxie’s Magnet Executive Leadership Program, was even more blunt when asked if he’d trust True Solar.

“You might as well call it Moxie Solar Three,” he said.

Ellipsis Solar Automation

Mr. Hall’s LinkedIn page currently lists him as CEO for Ellipsis Solar Automation from September 2022 to the present. 

On Oct. 19, 2022, he formed Ellipsis Solar Automation LLC with the Iowa Secretary of State’s office. He subsequently adopted Three Solar as the entity’s fictitious name.

An Empower Innovation webpage provides a brief snapshot into what the company could be, if it ever gets off the ground, with Mr. Hall seemingly on the lookout for investors to launch his solar panel manufacturing business once and for all.

“During 2021 I purchased a 300 MW solar manufacturing line,” the message reads. “We were assembling last fall when we ran out of funds. We felt it was best to just sit on the equipment in anticipation [of] new supportive legislation. Now with the passing of the Infrastructure Bill, The National Defense Production Act and the Inflation Reduction Act, we are extremely excited to get back to work and are seeking support from anyone that might be willing to help us get off the ground. Respectfully, Jason.”

The location listed is 2239 Heinz Rd. in Iowa City. This is the same address listed in the Hieronymi Partnership LLP. vs. Ralos Eixom, Jason Hall, Jennifer Hall and Central State Bank lawsuit.

That lawsuit alleges Ralos is avoiding payment on a lease inside a warehouse that holds “very large, bulky, heavy equipment.” 

The plaintiff obtained a writ of attachment for the equipment and a trial is set for Sept. 26, according to attorney Siobhan Briley.

“The Inflation Reduction Act gave the solar industry predictable policy for the foreseeable future,” said Lewis Butler, president of the Iowa Solar Energy Trade Association. “This policy certainty helps out the entire ecosystem, from financing to installation to long-term service and maintenance.”

Consumer extension of clean energy credits and qualified battery storage was extended until Dec. 31, 2034, in the IRA. Additionally, $10 billion is eligible to be earned through the IRA for investment in clean energy manufacturing, if conditions are met by applicants.

Through the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy at the United States Department of Energy (DOE), $150 million is available through 2027 to “carry out activities for infrastructure and general plant projects,” according to the legislation.

Mr. Hall may be able to take advantage of either of these incentives, if he qualifies and is given the opportunity.

The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA) could provide additional sources of funding through the Battery Processing & Manufacturing, Sustainable Manufacturing, Assisting Small to Mid Size Manufacturing and State Funding to Grant Manufacturing assistance sections.

State of solar

There are mixed feelings about the solar industry after Moxie Solar’s collapse.

“I think the solar industry should be in good shape,” said former Moxie CFO Keith Fuglaar. “I think the economics can still be there. As long as companies can just use solid business practices to install for cheaper than it costs, it’s a no-brainer. The best bet is to deal with a local installation company and not some national company.”

“We’ve seen a lot of companies remotely sell into an area and then run into trouble on the execution side because they’re not familiar with the local zoning codes or they don’t understand utility company policies,” Mr. Butler added.

For burned customers, the faith in the industry is tarnished.

“I feel like this industry is really sleazy,” said Hoainam Duong, a Moxie customer from Texas who is owed more than $100,000. “There are lots of middlemen and people who would say anything to sign the sales contract.”

Julian Vandervelde, a vice president of sales for Moxie and a University of Iowa and NFL offensive lineman, said he wishes solar financing was handled differently in the industry.

“Solar financing is a weird animal in the way that it’s handled,” he said. “They get away with things I don’t think other industries…can get away with. [There’s] not a lot of recourse on the cash side of things.”

“It’s really sad,” said Mr. Williams. “North Liberty got fooled. Employees got fooled. The customers definitely got fooled. That’s the saddest part.”

Read more about Moxie Solar in our five-part investigative series:

The rise and fall of Moxie Solar