Making technology more practical attracts investors

August 4, 2007

  

Pacific Business News (Honolulu) – August 3, 2007

Tina Yuen, PBN

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The aluminum trough-shaped solar collectors developed in the warehouse of Honolulu-based Sopogy Inc. do not represent the next revolution in solar energy generation.  The company doesn’t revolt. It specializes in evolution, fashioning design improvements that increase the practicality of proven technology.  “We try to go after markets that already exist, providing near-term, modest solutions,” said Darren Kimura, president and CEO of the company he founded in 2006.

Next-generation technology

Sopogy builds next-generation parabolic reflectors that concentrate solar power, maximizing energy output from a low-cost, durable system that can be set up on or off the power grid.  The strategy has earned Sopogy the attention of two local venture capital groups, as well as the state, which this year made available up to $10 million in special-purpose revenue bonds to finance a one-megawatt power plant to be connected to the Big Island grid.  “Darren’s company is taking technology that has been proven to work in other areas, but has not been fine-tuned in Hawaii,” said state Sen. Carol Fukunaga, D-Makiki-Tantalus-Punchbowl, who proposed the legislation to provide the revenue bonds. “He has been very innovative in his approach.”

The 3,000-reflector plant will be built on six acres of lava rock at the Big Island’s Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority for an estimated $8 million and run by a newly formed Kimura company, Keahole Solar Power.  “Our goal is to use this as a showcase,” Kimura said. “We’re a Hawaii-based company, but our market is the world.”

Kimura isn’t ready to put a price tag on his units yet, but said Sopogy’s focus has been to build a system that costs about half as much as a comparable photovoltaic system, with a return on investment in three to five years.  Sopogy’s solar units differ from the more widespread, flat-paneled photovoltaic systems seen on residential and commercial rooftops. The company’s researchers focus on concentrated solar power designs, models with oil- or water-filled pipe that runs through parabolic reflectors, capturing heat used to generate steam.

That concept isn’t new.

The innovation comes in the form of nanocoating that insulates the reflectors from salt damage, of axes that allow the reflectors not only to track the sun in quarter-degree increments, but also to be flipped over and protected with additional casing in a hurricane.  A California company manufactures the units from glass, aluminum and concrete — an attractive element of the project for investors.  “They figured out how to use a low-cost manufacturing process,” said Joelle Simonpietri, a partner at Kolohala Ventures, which invested in Sopogy last year.

Sopogy is working with two different commercial models — the 2.5-foot-wide SopoFlare and the 5-foot-wide SopoNova.  “We’re the only company out there that is trying to shrink these systems,” Kimura said.

Building the ranks

Over the next year, Sopogy will build its ranks from its current 11 employees, looking to grow into a 100-employee company, Kimura said. A second round of financing should bring an influx of at least $5 million, he said.

The company has an eye on going public in the next three years, he said, a move that would give it more liquidity and bolster its research and development, as well as manufacturing, efforts.  “Hawaii is really only our lab,” Kimura said. “Our market is California, Asia.”

But the entrepreneur from Hilo has no plans to see his company leave the state.  “I want to leave a legacy in Hawaii,” he said.

cwoolard@bizjournals.com | 955-8039

Mr. Jonathan Ishikawa joins Sopogy as Project & Vendor Channel Manager

August 1, 2007

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Date: August 1, 2007
Subject: Mr. Jonathan Ishikawa joins Sopogy as Project & Vendor Channel Manager

Contact: Darren T. Kimura, President and CEO
Tel: ( 808 ) 216-3478
Email: dkimura@sopogy.org
Jonathan Ishikawa Joins Sopogy as Project & Vendor Channel Manager
Honolulu, HI – Sopogy, Inc. announced today that Mr. Jonathan Ishikawa has joined the company as its Project Manager & Vendor Channel Manager.  Prior to joining Sopogy he was a Project Manger and Business Development Manager at Pipeline Communications & Technology, Inc.  He holds a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering from Washington University ( St. Louis ) and is a current member of the Hawaii Army National Guard.
About Sopogy, Inc.
Sopogy, Inc. ( www.sopogy.org ) is a Hawaii based solar technology company founded by Energy Laboratories the “think-tech” incubator of Energy Industries.  Sopogy is a manufacturer and developer of Concentrated Solar Power ( CSP ) technologies that increase the effectiveness of solar energy. Sopogy offers a cost-effective method for producing renewable electricity, drinking water from sea water and air conditioning from the power of the sun.
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For additional information about Sopogy, Inc., please contact Darren Kimura, President & CEO at ( 808 ) 216-3478.