Sopogy elects Dr. Rose Tseng to its Board of Directors

July 22, 2010

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE (July 22, 2010)

Sopogy elects Dr. Rose Tseng to its Board of Directors

Honolulu, HIJuly 20, 2010— Sopogy, Inc., the leader in MicroCSP™ solar technology development, manufacturing and installation, announced that it has elected Rose Tseng, Ph.D. to its Board of Directors. Dr. Tseng is currently the Chancellor Emerita at the University of Hawaii at Hilo.

Since 1998, Dr. Tseng served as the Chancellor at the University of Hawaii at Hilo where she led the campus to a 50% increase in enrollment and 600% increase in grant funding.  She previously served as the Chancellor and Chief Executive Officer of West Valley Mission College District between 1993-98, spent 6 years as the Dean of San Jose State University College of Applied Sciences and Arts and Professor and 17 years as Chair and Division Director at San Jose State University. 

Through her illustrious career, Dr. Tseng was recognized by the San Jose and Silicon Valley Business Journal as one of the Bay Area’s Top 50 Women in Management.  She was also honored as Statewide Role Model Woman of the Year from the California State Legislature and received a White House Commendation.  

 “In Silicon Valley, China and Hawaii, Dr. Tseng has earned a reputation to get things done.  We are looking forward to her guidance and experience as we continue to exponentially grow and expand” said Darren T. Kimura, Chairman, CEO and President of Sopogy, Inc.

Dr. Tseng studied architectural engineering and chemistry at National Cheng Kung University in Taiwan and earned a BS in chemistry from Kansas State University and an MS and PhD at the University of California at Berkeley. She also holds a certificate in education management from Harvard University.  She was named an Honorary Professor by China Medical University and received an honorary degree from the International Technological University in Santa Clara and Gosai International University in Japan. 

 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. Sopogy’s goal is to create solar solutions that improve the quality of life and simplify the solar power business.  Please visit www.sopogy.org for more information.

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Media Contact:

Dy Phung
Sopogy, Inc.
dphung@sopogy.org
808-237-2422

Solve Climate: Solar Thermal Gears Up for a Comeback

July 20, 2010

Solar Thermal Gears Up for a Comeback

Low PV costs and a shaky economy have slowed the development of large-scale concentrating solar power plants, but CSP producers are

by Amy Westervelt – Jul 15th, 2010 in concentrating solar power,CSP,solar thermal,utilities

A few years ago, when a polysilicon shortage suddenly drove up the price of photovoltaic panels, solar thermal was all the rage.

Start-ups were emerging every week, introducing new super-concentrating mirror technologies, special reflective films and other innovations.

Companies began announcing plans for utility-scale solar thermal plants anywhere there was sun in the United States. Solar thermal, also called concentrating solar power (CSP), not only had a cost advantage over photovoltaics, it offered one thing PV never could: storage, and thus stability.

So where did all the solar thermal go?

While there have been a few highly publicized bouts between large-scale solar thermal proponents and conservation groups concerned about the land required to build such plants, the real issue comes down to simple economics. Back when there was private capital available to fund projects like giant solar plants in the desert, the technology was still new and relatively untested. Now, just as the technology has matured, private capital has dried up with the recession.

Federal stimulus money has provided some grants and loan guarantees, but by all accounts the government just can’t afford to be the only funder of large-scale solar thermal plants. Moreover, the silicon glut is long gone, and PV is now the better option for utilities looking to get renewable energy into their portfolios cheaply and quickly.

Elsewhere in the world, CSP is still the technology of choice for large-scale solar, according to Jayesh Goyal, North American sales director for French utility Areva, which recently acquired Silicon Valley solar thermal start-up Ausra Solar.

The key for the U.S. market is to bring down the cost of the equipment, its installation and its operation and maintenance.

“For awhile there was a lot of development down the path of very customized solutions—lots of complicated lenses and materials,” said Sumeet Jain, a principal with CMEA Capital, a longtime investor in solar technology. “That means more expense—and maybe higher performance—but definitely at a lot of expense.”

Now companies are leveraging more off-the-shelf components, Jain said. “Solar thermal projects, for example, might go with a standard boiler or opt for flat mirrors instead of custom, curved glass.”

Such choices make it easier to get financing, because companies are using tested, proven components, Jain added. It also makes it easier to partner with manufacturers to get better deals on parts and drive down the overall cost of a project.

A number of solar thermal companies are working on the cost problem, each finding new ways to make the economics more attractive to American utilities.

There are three primary CSP designs on the market today: solar towers, parabolic troughs and linear-Fresnel systems — and proponents of each have a rivalry similar to that between PV and thin film. Engineers can wax poetic for hours on the differences between the three, but the fact is that all CSP systems work in essentially the same way: Reflective surfaces with tracking systems are used to concentrate heat from the sun into a receiver filled with a heat-conducting fluid. It is then transferred to an engine that converts the heat to electricity.

In parabolic trough systems, each trough has its own receiver, while linear-Fresnel systems feature several rows of mirrors that point to a single receiver. In tower systems, thousands of tracking mirrors in a field capture and reflect sunlight to a central receiver atop a tower. Each technology has been touted as the most efficient, stable, cost-effective choice in the solar thermal repertoire. So far, linear-Fresnel — the technology used by Ausra Solar — has been dominating the market.

However, the parabolic trough team recently has made some advances in cost reductions. Colorado-based SkyFuel, for example, is set this year to commercialize its SkyTrough, a product the company estimates uses 30 percent fewer materials, 40 percent fewer parts and requires half the assembly time of the average solar thermal system. Those numbers are backed by a report on SkyTrough published by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Honolulu-based Sopogy sells what it calls a MicroCSP parabolic trough system that allows for the affordable, quick installation of smaller solar-generating plants, in the 2MW range.

The company’s systems can be installed in half the time it takes to install other systems, according to Sopogy representatives, and don’t require electricians or specialized installers, which reduces installation costs by 60 to 80 percent.

Sopogy’s greatest innovation, however, may be its marketing strategy: All CSP systems can operate at lower temperatures to fulfill a variety of demands beyond simply generating power. Sopogy has targeted that broader market, selling its system as a device with many applications — from power generation to cooling to drying.

In its first installation, a 2MW thermal energy plant in Hawaii, Sopogy is generating power on the grid; the next phase will help power a small desalination plant. In a rooftop installation at Sempra Energy in San Diego, Sopogy’s system is running the building’s air conditioning system.

“They’re getting free air conditioning from the sun,” Darren Kimura, Sopogy’s founder, said at this week’s Intersolar Conference in San Francisco. “It’s solar-augmented cooling. That makes the building more energy efficient. In that instance, we don’t necessarily think of the system as solar technology. It’s an energy conservation technology.”

While individual companies are making incremental improvements to CSP technology, until the cost is lower than that of photovoltaics, utilities are likely to continue to embrace PV. To overcome the bias, secure customers and acquire project financing, Goyal says companies need to be ready to back performance claims with their balance sheets.

That’s something most start-ups can’t do, which is why many of them are partnering with larger industrial partners. According to Goyal, that was the case when Areva acquired Ausra; similar acquisitions are happening throughout the industry, most notably Siemens’ acquisition of Israeli CSP company Solel last year.

“You need to be able to offer utilities a credible performance guarantee. This is the reason that half the large-scale CSP projects announced have failed,” Goyal told Intersolar conference participants this week. “Because what is behind that guarantee? If you’re a start-up, and you guarantee the performance of your technology and it fails, you’ll just go out of business. That’s not a guarantee.”

To deal with utilities’ hesitation and price concerns, Goyal says Areva’s strategy of building so-called “booster” projects at existing plants—smaller CSP installations that take some of the load off an existing power plant—have been successful. The booster plants help reduce emissions and increase a utility’s comfort level with CSP.

Still, he said, utilities are never likely to choose CSP over PV simply because of the storage and stability advantages of the technology.

“At the end of the day, you have to be able to benchmark your offering against not only the lowest-cost solar offering, but the lowest-cost renewable. But, even though utilities have a preference for PV because it’s cheaper, smaller, and easy to deploy rapidly so they can meet their RPS [Renewable Portfolio Standard] requirements, they all say that if CSP can match the cost of PV, they have a preference for CSP.”

That holds true in Europe, where feed-in tariffs and government subsidies make the two comparable, and utilities show a heavy preference for CSP. Analysts and experts are confident that day will come in the United States as well. The U.S. Department of Energy has predicted a 13 percent growth in the CSP market over the next 20 years, and a total installed U.S. capacity of 20GW by 2020.

In other words, the sun isn’t ready to set on solar thermal.

See original story

Michael P. Loo named Chief Financial Officer at Sopogy, Inc.

July 7, 2010

Honolulu, HI—July 7, 2010—Sopogy, Inc., the leader in MicroCSP™ solar technology development, manufacturing and installation, announced the appointment of Michael P. Loo as its new Chief Financial Officer.

Loo comes to Sopogy with over 24 years of corporate financial management and public-accounting experience. Most recently, he served seven years as Vice President for Finance and Administration at Kamehameha Schools which has held the distinction as one of the largest charitable trusts in the US with an estimated portfolio of over $7 billion. Prior to Kamehameha Schools he served nine years as Vice President-Controller, Treasurer and Corporate Officer at Hawaiian Airlines (NASDAQ: HA) and seven years in the public accounting field as Senior Manager at KPMG, LLP.

Loo will be transitioning in for Tim Wong who has served as Sopogy’s CFO since 2007. Wong will become the Vice President of Administration overseeing Human Resources, Information Technology, Professional Services and Strategic Initiatives.

Speaking on the transitions, Darren T. Kimura, Chairman, CEO and President of Sopogy, Inc. said, “We are excited to have Michael Loo join our senior leadership team. His experience, focus and desire complement our ambitious goals.” Kimura added, “Tim Wong has been an exceptional CFO and over the years, demonstrated his robust business skills. I’m anxious to continue working with him as we focus on our strategic initiatives.”

“Having worked with Michael at KPMG, I am confident he will lead us forward as we grow exponentially and expand our international presence,” said Tim Wong.

“Sopogy has been a technology leader in the Concentrating Solar Power field and I’m looking forward to working with the team as we continue to bring the MicroCSP solution to the markets,” said Michael Loo.

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. Sopogy’s goal is to create solar solutions that improve the quality of life and simplify the solar power business. Please visit www.sopogy.org for more information.

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Media Contact:
Dy Phung
Sopogy, Inc.
dphung@sopogy.org
808-237-2422