Sopogy Wins Innovative Company of the Year 2008

November 17, 2008
Business News - Local News

Sun and creativity power Sopogy’s success

Pacific Business News (Honolulu) – by Nanea Kalani Pacific Business News

Christina Failma, PBN
Darren Kimura, president and CEO of Sopogy Inc., with one of the company’s solar collectors, which generate more power faster than typical photovoltaic systems.

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Darren Kimura considers himself a problem solver, always looking for solutions to the world’s troubles.

The Hawaii entrepreneur has built several successful technology companies around that trait, most of them focused on energy-efficient technologies.

“I do one thing — look for customer-based problems,” said Kimura, 33.

Combining this skill with an innovative mindset, Kimura started tinkering with ideas in 2002 to create an affordable technology that could ease electricity costs for businesses.

The tinkering led to building prototypes and eventually the launching last year of Sopogy Inc., PBN’s 2008 Innovative Company of the Year.

Sopogy’s name combines the words solar, power and technology. It was spun off from Energy Industries, which Kimura founded in 1994.

The company has invented a new kind of solar concentrator for generating electricity from the sun’s heat. The technology, resembling large silver troughs, uses mirrors and lenses to concentrate the sun’s rays on fluids, creating steam that turns turbines to generate electricity.

These collectors are very different from the more common photovoltaic panels, which are typically designed for roof-top systems and convert the sun’s energy directly into electricity.

Sopogy’s solar collectors are designed as ground units that can function as solar farms producing huge amounts of energy — up to 50 megawatts, or enough to power 15,000 homes. (The company does, however, also make a roof-top version.)

“At the core of the problem is the fact that as a society, we use more energy than we make,” Kimura said. “The only way to have a fast impact is to take big bites of the apple. You can’t do that with photovoltaics.”

Another distinct feature is the collectors’ capability to store solar energy that can be used after the sun goes down. They also are equipped with tracking systems, which Sopogy engineers created, to maximize productivity and efficiency.

“The software tied to our collectors account for factors such as cloudy skies, high wind speeds and rain,” said Kimura, who serves as president and CEO. “The programming allows the collector to be smart and encodes it with logic, so it can turn itself upside down if it’s cloudy. Although there’s layers and layers of complexity, of course, we’ve tried to make it simple for our customers.”

Kimura said Sopogy has a couple thousand of its collectors — called the SopoNova 4.0 — in use worldwide, including on the West Coast and in Asia, the Middle East and Spain.

“What’s exciting about solar technology is that it can be everywhere and anywhere,” he said. “The technology is made here in Hawaii, tested here, our company is based here, but we just export it out. I think innovation is about trying to create technologies that you can export around the world.”

Most of Sopogy’s 41 employees are based in Hawaii, while some are stationed at the company’s sales offices in San Jose, San Diego and Phoenix.

Kimura said Sopogy is on track to generate $10 million in revenue this year. The privately held company got its start using a combination of venture capital and personal investment from Kimura.

Locally, Sopogy’s technology is in use at the Big Island’s Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in Kona.

The company sells power from a 1-megawatt system to Hawaii Electric Light Co. The project was designed in phases so that Sopogy could expand the system to up to 10 megawatts.

Sopogy received approval for up to $10 million in state revenue bonds for the NELHA project. It also was approved for up to $35 million in bonds to build a solar farm on Oahu that could generate another 10 megawatts, or enough power for about 3,000 homes, for Hawaiian Electric Co.

Sopogy last year built a 16-collector, 50-kilowatt system in Spokane, Wash., which generates power for the local utility. Sopogy will add a dozen more collectors to the system by next summer.

Sopogy’s collector already has caught the attention of several national and international technology groups.

The National Society of Professional Engineers named it its 2008 new product award winner in the small company category. Meanwhile, the technology is one of four finalists for the Platts Global Energy Awards’ sustainable technology innovation of the year.

“In our world, these awards are like the Emmys or the Academy Awards; all the energy geeks want to win these,” Kimura said. “Out of the hundreds of tech companies in Silicon Valley that are well financed and have great technologies, we’re the one they picked. It’s really exciting.”

Sopogy wants to expand its solar plants around the world and Kimura ultimately wants to take the firm public.

nkalani@bizjournals.com | 955-8001

Pacific Business News (Honolulu) – November 17, 2008
http://pacific.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2008/11/17/focus19.html

Sopogy is selected as a finalist for 2008 Global Energy Awards

November 17, 2008

Sopogy is Selected as Finalist to the 2008 Global Energy Awards

Sopogy is selected as a finalist at the Global Energy Awards 2008 in the category of: “Sustainable Technology Innovation of the Year”, a new award category that specifically recognizes the enormous efforts currently going into technology research and development in the quest for a carbon neutral world.

“Being acknowledged in this category along side the top leaders in the renewable and energy efficiency field is a great honor and pays tribute to the focus and efforts of the Sopogy team.” Said Darren T. Kimura, President and CEO, Sopogy, Inc. “Its a compliment to be the representing the solar energy industry in this prestigious event.”

2008 Platts Global Energy Awards
Save the date for the 2008 Platts Global Energy Awards. Join the companies and individuals who consistently set a high standard of excellence within the energy industry as they are honored by Platts in New York City on December 3, 2008.

View award website

Sopogy is named Innovative Company of the Year 2008

November 17, 2008
Sopogy is nominated for Business Leadership Hawaii Awards 2008

Sopogy Receives Business Leadership Hawaii 2008 “Innovative Company of the Year” Award

HONOLULU –(Business Wire)– Before 1,000 members of the business community, Sopogy, Inc. was presented the Business Leadership Hawaii (BLH) 2008 “Innovative Company of the Year” Award. The event, which took place at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, honors the best in the business. The Innovative Company of the Year Award recognizes organizations dedicated to developing new approaches to creating products, winning customers, and tackling problems. Sopogy was chosen based on its innovative MicroCSP technologies, used to create Process Heat, Solar Air Conditioning, and Electrical Power, and its commitment to leading Hawaii to a sustainable future and curbing the effects of global climate change.

The 7th annual BLH 2008 awards program is a premier event recognizing leaders in business and non-profits. Finalists were judged by a panel of respected business leaders, many of whom are previous BLH winners. Since its launch in 2002, BLH has recognized more than 160 companies, individuals, and nonprofits. Pacific Business News created BLH to spread the word that Hawaii is a great place to do business because of outstanding and committed leaders.

“The culture of innovation is key to our company’s growth and the development of new products. Sopogy is honored to receive the Business Leadership Hawaii Innovative Company of the Year award,” said Darren T. Kimura, Sopogy Chief Executive Officer.

About Sopogy

Sopogy specializes in MicroCSP solar technologies that bring the economics of large solar energy systems to the industrial, commercial and utility sectors in a smaller, robust and more cost effective package. Please visit www.sopogy.org for more information.