Solar Air Conditioning Explained

August 20, 2009
LA Times Features Sopogys SopoCool Air Conditioning Solution

LA Times Features Sopogy's SopoCool Air Conditioning Solution Antminer t9 firmware - asicboost firmware for antminer

Solar Air Conditioning explained in graphic produced by the LA Times

LA Times – Using solar heat to power air conditioning

August 20, 2009

Using solar heat to power air conditioning
Southern California Gas Co. is testing systems that use less gas and electricity and is inviting businesses to view the prototypes on the roof of its Downey research facility.

David Berokoff, a technology development manager at Southern California Gas Co., shows off the mirrors of the HelioDynamics air conditioning system on the roof of the Downey facility. (Irfan Khan / Los Angeles Times / July 22)
Graphic: Solar-powered air conditioning

By Nathan Olivarez-Giles
August 20, 2009

Everyone knows solar power can heat homes and generate electricity.

But on a rooftop in Downey, Southern California Gas Co. engineers are using solar mirrors to cool down their offices.

Engineers are testing two technologies that use mirrors to concentrate sunlight onto pipes with water running through them. The heated water powers a thermal process in a chiller that cools the cold water used in air conditioning units.

“When we tell people we heat water up only to cool it down, they don’t get it at first,” said David Berokoff, a technology development manager at SoCal Gas. “But all this technology has been around for a while. We’re just trying to bring it together so we can get it out to our customers as soon as possible.”

The initiative is the latest in a move by SoCal Gas and its parent, Sempra Energy, to wean businesses off gas and push them to use more solar power. For businesses, the technologies could mean substantial savings.

Beyond the potential environmental benefits — the sun is a nonpolluting, renewable source of energy — the solar systems undergoing tests could help businesses slash air conditioning costs as much as 60%, Berokoff said.

The effort may seem counterproductive for one of the nation’s largest natural gas distributors, but it’s part of a broader move by the company to reposition itself as a renewable energy provider, SoCal Gas officials said. Sempra, which also owns San Diego Gas and Electric Co., expects to spend $10 million this year researching and developing “green technologies.”

The research project is only 4 months old and solar-powered cooling probably won’t reach the gas company’s customers for another year or two, but the gas company is already wooing businesses to the rooftop of its Downey research facility.

“When they make an investment in this sort of technology, they are in fact keeping their company viable and making sure they are changing as their customers’ needs change,” said Bob Phillips, a spokesman for Coca-Cola Bottling Co. of Southern California, which is watching the tests to see whether such technologies would make sense for several of its bottling plants. “It’s a very long-term view, but it’s the right view to have.”

The gas company has been checking out competing solar-thermal cooling technologies from two companies to see which would work best on the roofs of warehouses, manufacturing plants and other commercial buildings.

The research could cut the cost of the systems and bring them to market sooner, Berokoff said.

The rooftop prototype systems, which include the mirrors, pipes and computer-automated solar trackers, cost about $200,000 each — about the same cost as the entire traditional air conditioning system installed in the 45,000-square-foot Downey building, he said.

The developers hope to slash that price by at least half before it reaches commercial customers.

SoCal Gas is comparing systems developed by Sopogy Inc., based in Honolulu, and HelioDynamics of Britain. The testing is expected to run until the middle or end of next year, he said, after which SoCal Gas plans to compare the results with similar mirror-based systems from other manufacturers.

Sopogy’s and HelioDynamics’ systems are similar: Both use mirrors to aim the sun’s rays at water pipes, and when sun isn’t available to heat the water — at night, for example — both rely on gas as a backup.

The differences between the two systems lie in the shape and size of the mirrors used and in the placement of the water pipes.

Sopogy uses several 12-foot mirrors that curve upward, reflecting sunshine onto a pipe running just above the center of each mirror. HelioDynamics uses slabs of small, flat mirrors that reflect the sun’s rays onto a single pipe above them.

Both systems use computer-automated trackers to tilt the mirrors throughout the day as the sun moves across the sky.

The hot water in both systems is heated to temperatures just under 200 degrees and collected in a storage tank. Then it goes through an absorption chiller that cools the cold water used in the building’s fan units.

Non-solar systems use gas or electricity to heat the hot water before it goes through the chiller.

Sempra likes that the two solar systems can work alongside existing gas and electric systems, said Hal Snyder, vice president of customer solutions for SoCal Gas.

“People want renewable sources of energy, but we don’t think people want a switch that just happens overnight,” Snyder said. “By using gas or electricity as a backup, we’re not having to replace our infrastructure, and our customers know they won’t have to get into something experimental.”

The demonstrations are also helping developers of the technology, said Al Yuen, Sopogy’s director of corporate development.

“The gas company is giving us a stage to demonstrate what we can do for their customers,” Yuen said. “They bought our mirrors, bought our system, and now they’re using it and showing it off. It helps tremendously.”

Another benefit for the developers, Yuen said, is seeing the systems in daily use, up against competitors’ — with all the information shared.

This information from the project will be a deciding factor for most SoCal Gas and Sempra customers when the technology hits the market, Coca-Cola’s Phillips said.

“It’s easier to take that plunge when you have an example of the technology in place and you can point to numbers and say, ‘That’s effective, that saves money, that’s worth doing,’ ” he said.


Sopogy at Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo 2009

August 3, 2009

The 2009 Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo will be held on August 31-September 3, 2009, in Honolulu, Hawaii, at the Sheraton Waikiki resort on world-famous Waikiki Beach.  Organizer of this conference is the state of Hawaii, in cooperation with the Defense Energy Support Center and U.S. Pacific Command.

The 2009 Asia Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo will center around  various renewable energy initiatives and policies throughout the Asia-Pacific region.  It will also include a trade show for innovative technologies, services and ideas.  The Department of Defense will also have a DOD day featuring plans and procurement opportunities for energy projects throughout the Asia-Pacific region.

Hawaii is an ideal location for an Asia Pacific Energy Summit and Expo.  The Wall Street Journal noted that Hawaii, “a state better known for sun and fun, is quietly morphing into one of the world’s leading incubators of alternative energy.”  As a gateway for commerce in the Asia-Pacific region and a strategic center for the U.S. military, it is a natural gathering place for attendees to share views, efforts and commitments to enhance energy security and mitigate climate change through clean energy.   Presenters and participants will share renewable energy advances and common goals for increasing sustainable energy development and security, address concerns, exchange information, share experiences and exchange best practices.

The time is now for the nations of the Asia-Pacific region to work together to access clean and energy efficient technologies.  We hope to see you in Hawaii for what promises to be an exciting conference and trade show.

The 7th Korea-Pacific U.S. States Joint Conference will also be held in conjunction with the Asia-Pacific Clean Energy Summit & Expo.  This portion of the Asia-Pacific Clean Energy Summit and Expo is sponsored by the Korea International Trade Association (KITA);  the Korea-U.S. Economic Council; and the states of Alaska, California,  Hawaii, Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Sopogy Solar AC Demonstration in California Begins Operations in an Effort to boost use of Renewable Energy

July 21, 2009

Sopogy Solar AC Demonstration in California Begins Operations in an Effort to boost use of Renewable Energy

July 21, 2009


Date: 7/21/09

Contact: Sopogy Corporate Communications 


Los Angeles, CA – Sopogy, Inc.’s proprietary MicroCSP™ solar collectors will be used in combination with a thermal air conditioning unit to demonstrate the power of a solar air-conditioning demonstration system.  The Solar A/C program sponsored by Southern California Gas Co. (The Gas Company) a subsidiary of Sempra Energy.  The demonstration, is part of an overall effort to provide customers with energy solutions that will reduce costs, increase efficiencies, and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

Sopogy’s solar collectors, which were installed on the rooftop of The Gas Company’s Energy Resource Center (ERC) in Downey, California, will produce 10 tons of cooling, or enough air-conditioning to cool three average-sized homes. The system will provide solar thermal heat by concentrating the sun’s energy on a collection tube and heating the recirculated heat transfer fluid within the system. The generated heat will then be used in conjunction with absorption chillers to provide a renewable source of industrial cooling for the air-conditioning system at the ERC.

“We are extremely pleased to demonstrate how Sopogy’s SopoCool MicroCSP technologies can be used to produce renewable space cooling to The Gas Company,” says Darren T. Kimura, CEO of Sopogy.  He added, “It isn’t obvious that solar thermal energy can be used to create air conditioning but the efficiencies in doing so are incredible and the system displaces the burning of a significant amount of fossil fuels.”

Sopogy’s MicroCSP technologies are being deployed around the world including United States, the Middle East, Europe, Asia and Hawaii.  The unique scalability and modularity of MicroCSP make it ideal for distributed generation applications such as electricity, process heating, and solar air-conditioning.  Sopogy has engineering partners throughout the globe, who are certified to help develop and construct solar plants in their specific regions.

SopoCool is Sopogy’s proprietary solar air conditioning packaged system.  This combines an absorption thermal chiller, Sopogy’s solar collectors and Sopogy’s electronic controls necessary to operate the system automatically.  To see how SopoCool systems work please visit this SopoHow video on YouTube:

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 for more information.

About Southern California Gas Company

Southern California Gas Co. has been delivering clean, safe and reliable natural gas to its customers for more than 140 years.  It is the nation’s largest natural gas distribution utility, providing safe and reliable energy to 20.5 million consumers through 5.7 million meters in more than 500 communities.  The company’s service territory encompasses approximately 20,000 square miles in diverse terrain throughout Central and Southern California, from Visalia to the Mexican border.  The Gas Company is a regulated subsidiary of Sempra Energy (NYSE: SRE).  Sempra Energy based in San Diego, is a Fortune 500 energy-services holding company.

Tech Hui Conference

July 20, 2009

Tech Hui Conference

Darren Kimura, Sopogy CEO and President will be moderating the panel on renewable energy in Hawaii.

Info: Jul 25 • Sat • 9:00am-4:00pm
UHM Art Auditorium • $25 (general), $15 (TechHui members)

Come meet the movers and shakers in Hawaii’s technology sector from those leading the revolution in clean energy to the state’s top software developers and engineers. Discover exciting technologies being developed by Hawaii companies and find opportunities for employment, partnership, investment, and education.

The session features keynote talks by Kaz Hashimoto from Avatar Reality, Jeff Mikulina from the Blue Planet Foundation and Moriba Jah from the Advanced Sciences & Technology Research Institute for Astrodynamics. After lunch, choose from four tracks of panel discussions (10 panels total) covering everything from renewable energy and cinematic 3D CG to social media and nanotech.

Renewable Energy with Keith Cronin (SunHedge), Kelly King (Pacific Biodiesel), Darren Kimura (Sopogy), Michael Kaleikini (Ormat), and Noe Kalipi (First Wind);

Hosting and Visualization with Patrick Ahler (Superb), Fred Rodi (DRFortress), Laurence Lee (Ikayzo);

Software as a Service with John Honovich (IP Video Surveillance), Truman Leung (Ascribe), Steve Sue (StoryManager);

Social Media with Randy Ching (Peer News), Olin Lagon (Kanu Hawaii), Anthony Eden (Chimp);

3D CG & Animation with GB Hajim (Screaming Wink), Todd Robertson (Hyperspective), Sharon Sussman (KCC);

Internet Marketing/SEO with Neal Kido (AkamaiSEO), Rob Bertholf (Marketing Consultant), Roxanne Darling (Bare Feet Studios);

Hawaii IT Job Trends with Beverly Marica (Addeco), Jason Wyman (TEKsystems), Yuka Nagashima (HTDC), Scott Murakami (Pacific Center for Advanced Tech Training);

RIA (rich internet application) with Kevin Hughes (Sprout), Bruce Kim (Inovaware/UsRLnK), Konstantin Lukin (Ikayzo);

User Experience Design with Bernard Uy (Wall to Wall), Alyssa Murphy (Trouve Media), Cory Shaw (User Kind);

Star Trek Tech Today with Russ Ogi (Think Rapid), Vinod Veedu (Oceanit), Stefan Moisyadi (UH Institute for Biogenesis Research).

Sopogy at Hawaii Clean Energy Day 2009

June 6, 2009

JUNE 6, 2009    9:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m.


HCED Links


Sustain Your Brain
Sustainable lectures, workshops, & film series

$25 General; $15 Student/Senior

Find out how the HAWAI‘I CLEAN ENERGY INITIATIVE positions Hawai‘i as a leader in energy efficiency, and how you — a concerned citizen, business owner, organization, policy maker or school — can play a part in a more sustainable future.

The goal of the Hawai‘i Clean Energy Initiative (HCEI) is to dramatically increase the use of renewable energy and energy efficient technologies to meet 70% of Hawai‘i’s energy demand for electricity and ground transportation by 2030. Increasing clean energy and efficiency will reduce Hawai‘i’s reliance on imported oil—improving our economy and energy security—and reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Christine Erwin

squareKeynote Address
The Opportunity of Our Lives: Bringing Clean Energy Home

Christine Ervin
Christine Ervin is a nationally respected leader and spokesperson on market-based strategies for green buildings, clean energy and climate change. She served as first President and CEO of the U.S. Green Building Council – home of LEED® and Greenbuild™ Conference & Expo; U.S. Assistant Secretary of Energy under President Clinton; and director of the innovative Oregon Department of Energy. Today, Ervin is President of Christine Ervin/Company, and serves on numerous Boards including the American Council for Renewable Energy (ACORE) and Turner Construction’s Sustainability Advisory Board. Her upcoming book, Certified Green: How Unlikely Allies are Transforming Markets around the World, explores the promise and challenges of voluntary market-based initiatives. See full bio…


Clean Energy for Hawai‘i – Moving Forward
Moderated by Jeff Mikulina, Blue Planet Foundation; with panelists Representative Hermina Morita; Ted Liu, DBEDT; Robbie Alm, Hawaiian Electric Company; Mark Duda, Hawai‘i Solar Energy Association; Ray Starling, Hawai‘i Energy Efficiency Program, Public Benefits Fund.

Clean Energy for Hawai‘i – Creating It
Moderated by Mike Hamnet, UH Mānoa Hawai‘i Energy Policy Forum; with panelists Darren Kimura, Sopogy, Inc.; Pete Cooper, Better Place; Wren Wescoatt, First Wind; Kelly King, Pacific Biodiesel Inc.

Clean Energy for Hawai‘i – Sustaining It
Moderated by Mike Hamnet, UH Mānoa Hawai‘i Energy Policy Forum; with panelists James Koshiba, Kanu Hawaii; Carilyn Shon, DBEDT, Energy Efficiency Branch; Will Boudra, Forest City Military Communities; Gary Wassel, Cycle City, Ltd.


Exhibits are free and open to the public. Hours: 12:00 noon – 4:30 p.m.

squareRegistration Deadline

Deadline for online registration has been extended through June 2, 2009. Form of payment must accompany the registration. Credit card numbers submitted with registration will be processed upon receipt. Registrations will not be processed without payment. Continuous registration by fax and mail after June 2; does not include lunch.

Energy Opportunities for Hawaii – Darren T. Kimura

May 18, 2009

Inviting all to the free University of Hawaii at Manoa Sustainable Lecture series, Wednesday May 20, 2009 at 7PM, Architecture Auditorium. The event will begin with a film called Kilowatt Ours and followed by my talk on Energy Opportunities for Hawaii.

`Kilowatt Ours` (film), followed by presentation `The Sky`s the Limit: Energy Opportunities for Hawai`i,`

Info: May 20 • Wed • 7:00pm • Architecture Auditorium • FREE and open to the public • Parking $3, upper campus UH Manoa. • For more information, please call 956-8246.

`KILOWATT OURS: A PLAN TO RE-ENERGIZE AMERICA` is an award-winning film that provides simple, practical, affordable solutions to America`s energy crisis and shows how we can save electricity, save money and make a difference for the planet.

Following the film screening, self-described `serial energy entrepreneur` Darren Kimura discusses some of the renewable energy technologies being explored here in Hawaii, local prospects for green jobs, and how we can each make simple changes to reduce our energy consumption.

DARREN KIMURA is the President and CEO of Sopogy, Inc., a company that developed a new way to concentrate solar power to create electricity. Kimura, originally from Hilo, began his career in renewables and efficiency in 1992 working as an EPA Green Light Surveyor. He went on to found Hawaii`s own national energy company `Energy Industries` in 1994. Over his career he created numerous companies, created hundreds of green collar jobs and traveled the world presenting energy savings tips for consumers and businesses.

Funded in part by the Shunzo Sakamaki Extraordinary Lecture Endowment at the University of Hawai`i Foundation and the Hawai`i Energy Policy Forum`s Koaniani Fund at the Hawaii Community Foundation. Film screening of “Kilowatt Ours” sponsored by Kanu Hawaii.

Sopogy Featured on Tech Box

May 11, 2009

Tech Box is a weekly television show that brings the latest in technology to you – the consumer. A colorful, fast-paced, and entertaining 30-minute weekly cable TV special that focuses on technology from the consumer point-of-view. Also highlights how technology influences and affects our everyday lives and features locally available products and services for everyday consumer or business use.

Tech Box airs at 9 p.m. every Thursday on Oceanic Time Warner Cable’s Hawaii Channel OC 16.

Sopogy’s Solar Air Conditioning cools Sempra Utility energy center

January 30, 2009

Sopogy technology to be used in California project

Pacific Business News (Honolulu)

Honolulu-based solar energy company Sopogy Inc. will be part of a California demonstration project that aims to showcase six new solar technologies.

Nine of Sopogy’s patented solar concentrators, which the company designs, engineers and manufactures in Hawaii, will be used to run air conditioning units on a 45,000 square-foot building in Downey, Calif.

Sopogy’s 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.

The demonstration project was announced Friday by the Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric.

The California utilities said they will be testing solar technologies at different California sites over the next 18 months. The utilities are testing five other solar technologies, and says the project should help accelerate the commercialization of the new technologies.

The names of the other five technology companies were not released.

Sopogy — the name combines the words solar, power and technology — was launched in 2007 after five years of research and development. It was spun off from Energy Industries, which Darren Kimura founded in 1994.

Sopogy solar power systems to be demonstrated in California

January 29, 2009


Advertiser Staff

Sopogy Inc., the Honolulu-based maker of a concentrating solar thermal power systems, will have its product showcased in a renewable energy demonstration project run in California.

Sempra Energy’s Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric want to test solar technologies at sites over the next year and a half, including those involving electrical generation and natural lighting. The gas company will install nine of Sopogy’s SopoNova 4.0 units to run air conditioning on a 45,000 square-foot building in Downey, California.

Sempra is testing five solar technologies to see which ones work the best. Sopogy’s system features mirrors focused onto a chamber containing a liquid that is heated. This can be used in power generation systems, absorption air conditioning and other energy systems.

San Diego-based Sempra said it hopes the demonstration project will help accelerate the commercialization of the new solar technologies. Sopogy said the effort will mark the first time its technology has been used in an air conditioning project.

Sopogy last month announced it had entered into an agreement for a 50 megawatt solar power plant in Toledo, Spain. In June the company won the new product of the year award from the National Society of Professional Engineers.

Scoops: Who’s moving, buying, opening, changing, winning

January 13, 2009
Business News - Local News

Pacific Business News (Honolulu) – by PBN Staff

Renewable energy energizes retired HECO executive

T. Michael May, who retired Aug. 1 as CEO of Hawaiian Electric Co., has teamed up with local entrepreneurs to find renewable energy sources for Hawaii.

May, 62, has equity ownership and is a board member of Sopogy, which specializes in solar power collectors. He also has equity ownership in Natural Power Concepts, an alternative energy technology incubator. And, he is involved in at least two other soon-to-be-named tech firms run by entrepreneurs in their 30s.

“It’s invigorating to be with people who have a passion for what they are doing and using their experiences and skills to quickly launch new dreams in products,” May said, adding that most of his time this year will be spent capitalizing on new ventures, and taking the ideas to market.

His wife, Carol Ai May, vice president of City Mill, thought he would take it easy during retirement.

Spain Solar Farm Project expands Sopogy’s global strategy

January 12, 2009
Business News - Local News

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

Christina Failma, PBN

Sopogy CEO Darren Kimura says the lack of financial incentives in the United States has forced him to become more global.

View Larger

Building a multimillion-dollar solar farm in Europe over the next two years is part of Honolulu-based Sopogy‘s strategy to get its solar technology deployed around the world.

The company announced last week that it will build a 50-megawatt system in Toledo, Spain, using its proprietary technology in partnership with a German energy financier and a Spanish project developer. The system could generate enough electricity to power 15,000 homes.

Sopogy founder and CEO Darren Kimura said the Spanish project, expected to be completed by the end of 2010 and cost about $300 million, is part of the company’s plans to expand its presence abroad as the U.S. financial market wanes.

“For about a year now, Sopogy has felt that it’s necessary to diversify and become more global,” Kimura told PBN. “Because our technology offers higher production and lower capital costs, we’re looking for sites where our technology has the best value, and the best value today lies in the European market.”

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.

View Larger

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. | 955-8001

Pacific Business News (Honolulu) – November 17, 2008

Sopogy is selected as a finalist for Business Leadership Hawaii

September 30, 2008
Sopogy is nominated for Business Leadership Hawaii Awards 2008

Sopogy is selected as a finalist for Business Leadership Hawaii Awards 2008

Sopogy is selected as a finalist for Business Leadership Hawaii awards 2008.

Please join Pacific Business News and our sponsors on Thursday, November 13, at 5:30 p.m in the Coral Ballroom at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, as we honor, award and celebrate the best in business at the 2008 Business Leadership Hawaii (BLH) awards event.

Registration Form

Sopogy receives Innovation Award by Governor of Hawaii

September 23, 2008
Governor's Innovation Award

Governor Lingle Presents Innovation Award to SopogyHONOLULU – Governor Linda Lingle today recognized three recipients of the Governor’s Innovation Awards for their ingenuity and commitment to developing creative ways to improve Hawai‘i and help the state meet the challenges of the 21st century.

“Our most recent Innovation Award winners are outstanding examples of the ingenuity and innovation of Hawai‘i residents, businesses and government agencies,” said Governor Lingle.  “They are applying creative ideas and developing new technologies that will transform our economy away from an over-reliance on land development and position Hawai‘i to compete successfully in the global, 21st century marketplace.”

Sopogy is awarded Governor's Innovation Award

Sopogy, Inc. develops and manufactures renewable energy technology systems, including innovative and affordable solar collectors.  The technology developed by Sopogy can provide the co-generation of electricity, process heat and solar air conditioning from one hybrid system with cost-effective energy storage and power delivery.

“Sopogy, Inc. has accomplished much to advance alternative energy, addressing the important needs of our state and its people” stated Governor Linda Lingle.

“The convergence of Renewable Energy and Innovation is an exciting area where the State of Hawaii has established a leadership position and Sopogy is proud to receive this honor” said Darren T. Kimura, President and CEO.

The Governor’s Innovation Award nominees were evaluated by a 15-member selection panel comprised of industry, education and government representatives statewide.  Nominations were submitted online and were judged on creativity; effectiveness in achieving a goal or purpose; transferability and adoptability by others; and significance in addressing an important local or global issue, problem or opportunity.  The selection committee provided final recommended nominations to Governor Lingle for her selection.

Sopogy presents MicroCSP at Google

September 18, 2008

Google Tech Talks September 18, 2008 ABSTRACT

Sopogy is bringing smaller concentrated solar energy systems to the market: Process heat, air conditioning, and power generation.

Dr. Al Yuen of Sopogy presents MicroCSP solar solutions to Google.

Giant solar thermal farms are mainframe computers, Sopogy is the personal computer

July 15, 2008

Sopogy thinks small to make megawatts of solar power

Posted by Martin LaMonica

If giant solar thermal power plants spread across the desert are like a mainframe, Sopogy is making the equivalent of a personal computer.

The Hawaii-based company on Tuesday at the Intersolar 2008 conference will show off the latest version of its MicroCSP–essentially a shrunk-down version of concentrating solar power (CSP) equipment used in power plants.

The SopaNova 4.0, a “micro concentrated solar power” trough, has been redesigned to be longer and use less material.

It’s a trough with a reflective coating that focuses sunlight onto a pipe that carries an oil. That heated liquid goes through an organic Rankine cycle engine to convert it into electricity.
The conventional thinking in solar these days is to think big. Proposals for concentrating solar power plants call for hundreds of rows of troughs or mirrors to make steam to drive an electricity turbine. The output of these proposed plants will be hundreds of megawatts, approaching the size of traditional power plants.
Sopogy’s product, called SopaNova 4.0, is aimed at utilities as well, but for smaller-scale projects, in the range of 250 kilowatts to 25 megawatts. The latest edition is longer–between 12 feet and 18 feet long–than previous editions because of a new manufacturing process.
“On cost per watt, we’re cheaper than PV (photovoltaics),” said CEO Darren Kimura. “But that’s not what really matters. We can do more production. We actually get more sun energy every day.”
With a higher output, the payback on an initial investment comes quicker, he argued. The troughs can be used by corporate customers as well for on-site power generation.
In terms of the efficiency of converting sunlight to electricity, the SopaNova is between 20 percent and 30 percent, he said. That’s lower than its larger CSP cousins, which operate at higher temperatures, but better than most solar photovoltaic cells.
Unlike flat solar photovoltaic panels, solar thermal systems have storage today. In practice, Sopogy’s trough systems can store a few hours worth of electricity, which can be used when electricity is more expensive or when there isn’t light.
Sopogy is thinking relatively small when it comes to its own capital needs.
The company raised $9 million in venture funding earlier this year and got a $35 million special-purpose bond from the state of Hawaii.
Later this year, Sopogy will look to raise another round of equity, which will be more than its past round but far less than the huge deals–some topping $100 million–announced by traditional CSP companies.
“We’re trying to demonstrate that you can do solar technology but still be capex (capital expenditure)-light,” Kimura said.
Ultimately, the company intends to go public. “The goal in solar is to become a really big company and the market space allows for that. If you don’t, you’ll get acquired,” Kimura said.
The company has about 20 customers now. The Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii recently broke ground on a project to install thousands of the troughs to ultimately make one megawatt of electricity.
The troughs can also be used to generate process heat, which can be used in a variety of applications, Kimura said.

Dr. Al Yuen at InterSolar North America

July 14, 2008

Renewable Energy World - Sopogy

“Since 2002, Sopogy has been inventing, testing and validating our unique MicroCSP technologies. SopoNova 4 marks our 40th version of technology improvement. We’ve learned many valuable lessons through our six years of research and development and incorporated those lessons into our most efficient and lowest cost product yet. In SopoNova 4 we’ve incorporated form and function with a visually appealing yet robust and cost effective concentrating solar collector,” said Darren Kimura, president and CEO of Sopogy.

The Sopogy MicroCSP solar collector system is concentrating panel that was modeled after the successful installation of concentrating panels in the Mojave Desert in the mid 1980’s. The product design includes modularity, customized tracking, efficient shipping, storm protection, and automatic operation. The heat generated by the concentrator can be used to power turbines to create electricity or used directly for industrial process heating and solar cooling. The technology captures cost efficiencies by operating in lower temperatures which enable general contractor installation, low cost thermal energy storage and is facility safe.

To see Al Yuen PhD, director of corporate development for Sopogy discuss the product launch and the company’s business, play the video below.

Wall Street Journal “Hawaii the Alternative State”

June 30, 2008

Wall Street Journal features Sopogy

Hawaii has become an incubator for all sorts of renewable-energy projects

June 30, 2008; Page R12
HONOLULU — A state better known for sun and fun is quietly morphing into one of the world’s leading incubators of alternative energy.

Royal Dutch Shell PLC is heading up a test venture in Hawaii to turn oil-rich algae into fuel. If the process is found commercially viable, the Anglo-Dutch conglomerate could build algae-processing plants elsewhere.

Ever-Green Energy LLC of St. Paul, Minn., plans to build a plant in Honolulu that uses seawater to cool office buildings; if successful, the project will be expanded to other states. A start-up company, meanwhile, is deploying miniature solar-thermal collectors on Oahu to help generate more power for the local electricity grid. This set-up, too, if successful, will be reproduced elsewhere.

The reason for all the interest: location, location, location.

“Hawaii is the only place in the world where you have access to every form of renewable energy, and you are on the dollar and the U.S. legal system,” says Joelle Simonpietri, a former venture capitalist who now heads an algae-to-fuel firm called Kuehnle AgroSystems Inc.

Hawaii is trying to convert to clean energy as fast as it can. Petroleum imports make up about 80% of the energy supply for Hawaii’s main utility, leaving the state among those hardest hit by the run-up in oil prices. Electricity rates have gone through the roof. The average residential rate on Oahu, where most of Hawaii’s 1.2 million residents live, had doubled to 25.50 cents a kilowatt hour — the highest in the U.S. — from 12.74 cents in 1999, according to Hawaiian Electric Co., the state’s major utility.

So, in January, Gov. Linda Lingle announced plans under a state-federal partnership for Hawaii to derive 70% of its energy from renewable sources by 2030 — one of the most ambitious targets in the world.

The state has gotten a head start toward this goal in some places. On Maui, for example, wind farms power 11,000 homes, or about 10% of that island’s energy, while on the Big Island, which is Hawaii itself, geothermal power from volcanic vents accounts for about a fifth of the energy there.

And on Oahu, Hawaiian Electric is building a new power plant that will generate 110 megawatts — enough power for about 30,000 homes — and will run completely on biodiesel fuel. The $160 million plant, expected to open next year, will initially get its fuel from imported palm oil.

“Everything is possible as oil prices rise,” says Henry Montgomery, chief executive of MontPac Outsourcing, a finance and accounting consultancy in Honolulu.

Not all the technologies are problem free. Environmentalists want to make sure, for example, that Hawaiian Electric doesn’t import any of its palm oil from endangered rainforests in Asia. Utility officials say that their palm oil will come from sustainable sources, and that over time the plant will rely more on crops grown in Hawaii.

There’s also a question of whether the sources of energy can overcome technical hurdles, among other challenges.

Gov. Lingle, for her part, says Hawaii is counting on a multitude of the clean-energy technologies to succeed — not any particular one. “If our experience with petroleum has taught us anything, it is not to get reliant on any one source of energy,” the governor said in a recent interview at her state capital office, where, moments earlier, the power went down due to a temporary malfunction.

Here is a sampling of what’s going on in Hawaii:


One of Hawaii’s most abundant resources is its sunshine. But like many places, solar power used to cost so much more than conventional power it largely wasn’t economical — until oil prices got so high.

Now, several solar companies in Hawaii are trying to cash in on the boom in clean-energy demand. Hoku Scientific Inc. until last year specialized in making fuel cells. Now the Honolulu company makes silicon for photovoltaic solar cells at a factory in Idaho, while in Hawaii it installs solar panels for mostly corporate customers including the Bank of Hawaii and Hawaiian Electric. “Obviously, with the high electric rates, Hawaii is a great place to sell alternative energy,” says Darryl Nakamoto, Hoku’s chief financial officer.

Another company, Sopogy Inc., is augmenting local power with solar-thermal energy, a technology that uses mirrors and lenses to concentrate the sun’s rays on fluids, creating steam that turns turbines to generate electricity. Spun off last year from a technology company called Energy Industries, Sopogy has created a miniature version of the giant solar collectors found in places like the California desert. “Micro” collectors weigh about 100 pounds, measure 12 feet by five feet, and can be deployed on building rooftops, Sopogy officials say. Also, unlike many technologies that tap the sun, Sopogy has designed its system so it can store solar energy, the company says.

Last year, Sopogy got $10 million in state revenue bonds to set up a one-megawatt demonstration farm on Hawaii. In May, the state Legislature approved $35 million in bonds to help Sopogy build a solar plant on Oahu that will generate 10 megawatts, or enough power for about 3,000 homes, for Hawaiian Electric. Privately held Sopogy has raised more than $10 million in other money as well, including from Kolohala Ventures, a Honolulu venture-capital firm.

If successful, Sopogy hopes to expand its micro solar plants around the world. “We want to see our revenues at $1 billion in five years,” says Darren Kimura, president and chief executive of Sopogy, and founder of Energy Industries.


One of the holy grails in alternative energy is a system that can extrude oil from algae on a grand, and economical, scale. Scientists say oil represents as much as half the body weight of algae, compared with about 20% for corn, one of the most widely used biofuel crops. Algae also grows as much as 10 times faster than corn, and can be processed for oil without disrupting food supplies.

RENEWABLE SOURCES A seawater cooling project for downtown Honolulu would be similar to an Enwave Energy project in Toronto (top left); Ormat Technologies’ geothermal plant in Puna (top right); Darren Kimura, president and CEO of Sopogy, a solar-thermal energy firm; and a diagram of a deep-water cooling system.
However, the technical challenges have proven large in the past. For example, studies have shown algae strains that can produce the most energy often need to be starved of nutrients, which stunts their growth. Indeed, some previous efforts in the U.S. and Japan over the past 30 years have been dropped, in part, because costs were exorbitant.

But now that oil is so high, several companies are turning to algae again. One of the more closely watched is Cellana, a Shell-led venture with a University of Hawaii spin-off, HR Biopetroleum. The companies announced in November 2007 that the venture would build a pilot facility on the Big Island’s Kona coast. Since then, researchers have been busy planting various strains of algae in test tubes that sit in the warm sea water on the Kona coast. One of the tasks facing them is to find algae that both contains the highest amounts of oil and can grow in warm water. “We’re in the process of whittling down the top super bugs from hundreds to 10,” says Susan Brown, a University of Hawaii researcher who collects specimens for the project on scuba dives around local waters.


One of the simplest clean-energy concepts is to take cool water from the ocean or a lake and use it to help air-condition buildings in nearby cities. The technique has been used in places like Amsterdam and Toronto, with significant power savings.

But piping water to where it needs to go requires more capital investment than many places were willing to make when oil was cheaper. Until recent years, there were also limitations on how deep pipes could be put to suck up the colder water.

In 2003, David Rezachek — a former manager of Hawaii’s alternative energy program — held a workshop in Honolulu to revive local interest in seawater air-conditioning. Even then, Hawaii’s electric rates were the highest in the country. “I said, ‘It’s time to quit talking about it, let’s do this thing,’” Mr. Rezachek recalls.

He helped get Ever-Green Energy — then called Market Street Energy — to set up a subsidiary called Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning. The company invested about $3.5 million in the venture, while $10.8 million has been raised from mainland and Hawaiian investors, including Kolohala Ventures, says Mr. Rezachek, associate development director for Honolulu Seawater. The state Legislature has also authorized $100 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds for a seawater cooling project.

The venture proposed in late 2003 a seawater cooling project be built for downtown Honolulu. Although ocean temperatures on the beaches around Oahu hover in the mid 70s, they drop to 45 degrees at 1,600 feet deep a few miles offshore. So Honolulu Seawater proposed to run a pipe from 1,600 feet deep to a cooling plant onshore, four miles away. The cold seawater would pass through a heat exchanger where it would cool fresh water from separate pipes used to chill nearby office towers downtown.

Designed to cool 12.5 million square feet of office space — or the equivalent of almost five Empire State Buildings — the Honolulu system is projected to save as much as 15 megawatts of conventional power, while at the same time cutting greenhouse gas emissions by 84,000 tons a year. The venture expects to secure permitting by early next year, and be in operation in 2010 at a cost of about $165 million.


Few places in the world have as much geothermal energy potential as Hawaii’s Big Island, where the Kilauea volcano has been erupting since 1983. As long ago as 1881, Hawaiian King David Kalakaua met with inventor Thomas Edison to discuss harnessing the power of Hawaii’s volcanoes.

In the 1970s, a public-private partnership dug the first geothermal well in Puna on the windy east side of the island. Over time, enough hot water and steam was taken out of the ground to fuel a 30-megawatt power plant. The plant, owned by Reno, Nev.-based Ormat Technologies Inc., provides power to about 10,000 homes, or 18% of the Big Island’s total supply, according to Hawaiian Electric.

Conceivably, the Kilauea volcano could provide enough power to meet all of Hawaii’s needs, state utility officials say. But there are several limitations. One is the Big Island’s isolation from the other Hawaiian islands. For example, the ocean is so deep between it and the next closest island, Maui, that officials in the state abandoned a past plan to try and lay an underwater cable between the islands to transfer the geothermal energy.

Another issue: opposition to significant expansion of geothermal by some native Hawaiians, on grounds the volcano is sacred, says Robert Alm, a spokesman for Hawaiian Electric.

–Mr. Carlton is a staff reporter in the San Francisco bureau of The Wall Street Journal.

Write to Jim Carlton at

Sopogy Scores Funding from Founder of eBay, Cargill and Tetris

May 31, 2008

Earth 2 Tech

Written by Katie Fehrenbacher

The small-scale solar thermal startup Sopogy that we reported was in the process of raising a $9 million round last October, has closed that round from investors including the investment vehicle of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, Ohana Holdings. The folks at New Energy Finance reported the news, and after digging through regulatory filings, Nathaniel Bullard, senior analyst at New Energy Finance reported that the $9.1 million round also included local investors Bethel Tech Holdings, Energy Industries Holdings, Kolohala Holdings, Black River Asset Management a wholly owned subsidiary of Cargill and Tetris video game entrepreneur Henk Rogers.

Well, Google and former dotcom entrepreneur Bill Gross have been busy investing in solar thermal power plants, so why not eBay’s founder? (Perhaps we should add him to our list of 25 Who Ditched Infotech for Cleantech). And former eBay President Jeff Skoll has invested in thin-film solar startup Nanosolar. New Energy Finance notes that Omidyar’s Ohana Holdings has actively been investing in Hawaii as of late, and Bullard tells us that Ohana also previously invested in biodiesel company US BioDiesel Group.

Sopogy has strong roots in the state. Most of its investors are local, and in May Sopogy said the state legislature had approved up to $35 million in special purpose revenue bonds for Sopogy to build and operate a solar plant locally. As of October Sopogy CEO Darren Kimura told us the company is working on getting a 1-megawatt solar system up and running. Kimura also said that Hawaii’s “highest electricity rates in the U.S.” give its technologies “a competitive marketplace to develop and mature.”

The Honolulu-based five-year-old company Sopogy makes small scale solar thermal systems, which are condensed versions of the set-ups that use mirrors and lenses to heat liquid and turn that into power. Ausra, BrightSource, Solel and eSolar are just a few of the startups that have emerged to building large-scale systems on a lot of land and plan that power to utilities.

Sopogy, on the other hand, says its technology can be used where space is limited, even on rooftops, and delivers on a scale in the single megawatts. Each individual collector can produce 500 watts, and the collectors can be strung together for more wattage.

Kimura told VentureBeat last week that Sopogy has gotten enough interest that the company is eying an IPO in the not-too-distant future.