Sopogy Receives $35 Million Dollar Approval by State of Hawaii

May 3, 2008

Renewable energy could get boost

The Legislature has approved up to $35 million in special purpose revenue bonds for local renewable energy technology firm Sopogy Inc.

The measure goes to the governor for final approval.

If approved, the bonds are expected to be used by Sopogy to develop a 10-megawatt solar farm plant on O’ahu. Honolulu-based Sopogy, which is headed by Darren Kimura, specializes in the development, manufacture and distribution of solar-powered systems.

Kimura applauded the Legislature and governor for taking the step to increase solar power production.

“Due to low energy cost and the high cost of construction, renewable energy has struggled to get traction on the island of O’ahu,” Kimura said. “These special purpose revenue bonds are a critical enabler in bringing clean solar power energy to the residents.”

The bill was introduced by Rep. Jon Riki Karamatsu, D-41st (Waipahu, Village Park, Waikele) and Sen. Ron Menor, D-17th (Mililani, Waipi’o).

Sopogy CEO to speak at 2008 Business, Technology and Innovation Conference

April 10, 2008

Darren Kimura began his energy career in 1992 as a EPA Green Lights Surveyor and founded national energy company “Energy Industries” in 1994 where he expanded the company internationally and led the acquisition of the Quantum Companies. He has been recognized as the Emerging Entrepreneur of the Year in 2000, SBA Young Entrepreneur of the Year for Hawaii, California, Nevada, and Arizona in 2002, Green Entrepreneur of the Year in 2007 and has been recognized by the EPA as an “Energy Pioneer.”

As a recognized expert in energy efficiency and renewable energy, he has served as a speaker for the US Department of Energy, Hawaiian Electric Company, the US Environmental Protection Agency, and for numerous Country, State and County Energy Offices. He is a Co-Chairperson of the Hawaii Energy Policy Forum, serves on the Advisory committees for DBEDT’s Energy Management, Hawaiian Electric IRP’s, Member of the Governor’s Innovation Council, Director HSDC, and President of PLASMA, the nation’s largest energy association. Mr. Kimura has a BA from the University of Hawaii. He is a Certified Energy Manager, Certified Demand Side Manager, Certified Cogeneration Professional, and Certified Sustainable Development Professional.

Emerging Solor Technologies

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Proposal would open state ag lands to solar farms

April 4, 2008

Pacific Business News (Honolulu) by Nanea Kalani

Hawaii could see a surge of new solar energy farms under a proposed measure that would open up thousands of acres of state agricultural-zoned land for such facilities.

House Bill 2502 would permit solar energy facilities on state agricultural land that is unsuited for either farming or livestock grazing. Wind farms and the growing of crops for biofuel already are allowed on such land.

The measure, introduced by state Rep. Hermina Morita, D-Kapaa-Hanalei, has gained strong support from solar energy firms and private land developers because it would reduce the number of land-use permits needed from county agencies for building and operating solar farms.

Industrial-size Facilities

Solar facilities can include large-scale photovoltaics, which directly convert sunlight into electricity, or solar collectors, which transfer heat energy to electric power and also can store the energy for use during nondaylight hours.

Unlike smaller residential systems, these types of projects typically sit on land ranging in size from one acre to thousands of acres. The generated power can be sold to a utility or used to power buildings and homes.

The bill, which passed through the Senate Agriculture and Hawaiian Affairs Committee last week, specifies lands with D or E soil productivity ratings. Approximately 70 percent of the state’s 1.3 million acres of farmlands — about 910,000 acres — have these soil classifications.

Honolulu solar technology firm Sopogy Inc. testified in support of the measure and sees potential for expanding its solar projects.

“This would open a new market for solar farming in Hawaii, where a lot of the abandoned sugar cane lands could be used for solar farms,” said Sopogy President Darren Kimura. “We would definitely be looking at these lands as we try to bring as much solar-generated power to Hawaii as possible.”

Sopogy has a 1-megawatt solar farm at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority on the Big Island, as well as a 50-kilowatt plant in Idaho. Both farms use Sopogy’s proprietary solar collectors, which concentrate the sun’s power to heat mineral oil, which is then run through a turbine to generate electricity.

On Oahu, the company plans to build a 50-acre, 10-megawatt solar farm that could generate enough electricity to power about 30,000 homes. The company has not revealed the site for the planned project, but says it expects the systems to be operational by late next year.

Meanwhile, on Maui, developer Dowling Co. expects the passing of HB 2502 will help speed its efforts to build a 40-50-acre solar farm on the Makena property it bought last year, which includes the Maui Prince Hotel and two golf courses.

“We have set the very ambitious goal of developing a net-zero-energy community,” Jennifer Stites, Dowling Co.’s green development manager, wrote in supporting testimony.

Stites said the proposed solar farm would be on land with E-classified soil.

“They are not suitable for the cultivation of crops and, because of the limited acreage, they are not suitable for grazing or pasture lands,” Stites wrote. “If we do not use this land for a solar farm, it will remain barren and unproductive.”

Developer Castle & Cooke Hawaii also wants to use 10 acres of agricultural lands on Lanai for a 1.5-megawatt solar farm, saying the bill’s passage is “essential to our efforts.”

“Castle & Cooke’s proposed solar energy facility will be placed on land that has been fallow for more than 20 years,” wrote Tim Hill, an executive vice president and head of the company’s renewable energy programs on Lanai. “[The] facilities will not displace any farmers or create a competitive situation for natural resources.”

Competition for ranchers

The Maui County Farm Bureau expressed some concern about the legislation, noting potential competition for the lands from solar facility operators.

“These nonagricultural uses are able to pass on their costs to customers [so] they will be willing to pay a higher price for the lands than farmers or ranchers,” wrote Warren Watanabe, the organization’s executive director.

Morita thinks the best scenario would be one where the renewable energy facility is secondary to agricultural activities.

“By still having the land available for agricultural use, it could benefit the farmers by giving them revenues from leasing their land for renewable energy uses,” she said.

The state Department of Agriculture shares a similar view and has asked lawmakers to consider adding to the bill: “Where solar energy facility is compatible with agricultural uses and activities on the parcel and adjacent parcels.”

Supporters of the bill say the way solar farms are configured often allows for livestock grazing and low-rising crop production. | 955-8001

Here comes the Sun: MicroCSP technologies

March 25, 2008

Rivers International and Sopogy

Here Comes the Sun: Taking Solar Power to Grid-Scale

March 25, 2008

by Lori Pottinger

What renewable energy source is highly reliable and predictable, especially productive during the hours of highest electricity use, can be scaled small enough to power one building or big enough to electrify a town, is a proven technology whose costs keep dropping, creates more jobs than gas or coal, and could, with a major rollout, displace 2-3 billion tons of carbon annually worldwide?

The answer is concentrating solar power, which uses mirrors and the power of the sun to run steam turbines. Unlike some other energy innovations being put forth today – “clean coal,” for example – there’s no “smoke and mirrors” trickery about it. Just mirrors. Lots and lots of mirrors.

This exciting renewable energy technology has been working reliably in California since the 1980s, when oil was cheap and climate change was for wonks. Today, the political and economic conditions that prevented a major rollout of the technology are, pardon the pun, almost a mirror image of the situation in the 1980s. Today, every indication is that concentrating solar power (CSP) is on the cusp of a renaissance, thanks to increased investments in R&D, tariff support for CSP plants’ electricity in Spain, and a growing realization among governments and financiers that the world needs to build renewable energy sources now.

A surge of development in Spain and the US West is well underway. Two new plants producing 65 megawatts of electricity have been built in the US (adding to California’s 355 MW of existing CSP), while Spain has completed 10 MW, has 50 more projects in the pipeline, and intends to develop 500 MW by 2010. The goal of the US National Renewable Energy Lab (NREL) is to help develop up to 4,000 megawatts of CSP in the southwestern US by 2015. “This penetration level is aggressive, but possible if the 30% investment tax credit is extended per the primary recommendation of the task force,” says George Douglas, an NREL spokesman.

Elsewhere, plants are planned or being built in Egypt, South Africa, Australia, Libya, Algeria, India, Israel and Morocco. And if a Jordanian prince has his way, tens of thousands of megawatts would be generated in the Sahara for sale to Europe. Renewable Energy World forecasts 6,400 MW installed globally by 2015, leaping to 36,850 MW by 2025. By then, they project an annual installation rate of 4,600 MW/year.

“After over a decade of inaction, CSP is finally taking off,” says Sven Teske with Greenpeace’s Energy [R]evolution Campaign. “For 2040, CSP has a chance to contribute to the global electricity supply in a double digit range. The main reason for this is good policy. In the USA there are Renewable Portfolio Standards in place, in Spain there are guaranteed tariffs.”

How it Works

CSP uses sun-tracking mirrors to concentrate solar heat onto liquid-filled tubes or central tower. The liquid is vaporized into steam, which is used to drive turbines to generate electricity. CSP plants act much more like conventional power plants than solar PV or wind farms, which make them more attractive to utilities. There are a variety of types of plants being tested and built, with different advantages to each. Because they are fairly simple to design and build, the plants go up quickly. A new CSP plant near Las Vegas, Nevada took about one year to build. (Permitting and land-use acquisitions add to the process, however.)

CSP still has obstacles to overcome. Most importantly to utilities is its still-high cost. While concentrated solar power is now less expensive than solar PV panels, it is still generally around 15-20 cents/kwh, well above fossil fuels and wind (though windpower is more “intermittent” than a well-sited CSP plant, and generally wind’s peak production time does not match peak loads as well). Prices for CSP are coming down, however, and the projected increase in new plants will help drive down prices further. Most companies are shooting for a target contract price of 15 cents/khw in the US, whereas “the price for electricity from new baseload natural gas plants is about 9 cents per kilowatt hour, and rises to 12 to 48 cents/kwh for peak power, depending on what report you read,” says Tom Hunt, with the Community Environmental Council. Unlike fossil fuel plants, which are expected to see rising prices over time, CSP plants have no fuel costs, and therefore no future price surprises once a contract is signed.

At least one company says they have already solved the cost issue. The US-Australian company Ausra has a new proprietary design that it says can produce electricity for 10 cents/kWh. Not only is Ausra’s design cheaper; the company will also save money by manufacturing units as close to where they’ll be installed as possible, to reduce shipping costs. Ausra is now building the “world’s largest” CSP factory in Nevada that will be able to churn out 700MW/year in new systems, to supply the hot US Southwest market. Other companies are also trimming the costs of their units by incorporating lighter materials, fewer moving parts, and other innovations.

One factor that would allow CSP to compete on an equal playing field with fossil fuels sooner is a price on carbon. “Everyone thinks an increase in the cost of carbon is coming,” said David Crane, CEO of NRG Energy Inc., in a recent article in EnergyBiz magazine. That would make the cost of electricity from coal jump significantly.

The other primary challenge for CSP is the ability to produce energy “24-7,” the way fossil fuel plants can. Plants would need 16 hours of storage to generate electricity around the clock. Ausra says it can store energy at its prototype plants for 20 hours – a breakthrough that, if it proves workable outside the pilot-plant stage, will place the company at the head of the pack. Ausra’s solar collectors employ a propriety storage system, but the basic idea is to focus light onto tubes filled with water, thus directly producing steam. Storing heat is more efficient than storing electricity: just 2-7% of the energy is lost in heat storage systems, compared with losses of at least 15% when energy is stored in a battery, according to the MIT Technology Review. Ausra will start construction on a 175 MW commercial plant in California later this year.

We Shall Overcome

Transmission issues can be more complex than with fossil fuel plants, as large CSP plants cannot always be built close to where power is needed. An article in Scientific American recently laid out a “grand plan” to massively increase solar power (both CSP and PV) in the US. It called for replacing the existing system of alternating-current (AC) power lines which lose too much energy over long hauls with a high-voltage, direct-current (HVDC) power transmission system, which lose far less energy than AC lines over equivalent spans. “The AC system is simply out of capacity, leading to noted shortages in California and other regions; DC lines are cheaper to build and require less land area than equivalent AC lines,” the magazine notes.

Water use is another potential drawback. Some CSP designs require water to cool the plant, which is impractical in the desert. Experts say R&D is needed to find air-cooling innovations. Some types, such as dish units, do not require water for cooling. Plants can also be built near the sea, where they could power desalination plants to produce their own cooling water.

A related environmental issue is the siting of large industrial solar fields in fragile deserts. Clearly, care must be taken to minimize impacts, to prevent CSP from being viewed as an unwelcome visitor in the way that large wind farms have become in some settings.

Another siting issue relates to the relatively large tracts of land needed for these projects compared to fossil fuel plants. Not all CSP plants are equally land-guzzling. “We are more than two times more efficient when it comes to land,” said Rob Morgan, Ausra’s chief development officer. Morgan states that using Ausra’s technology, it would take a square of land 92 miles on a side to “provide all US electric power – the entire US grid – day and night” (US consumption is currently about 25% of electricity use worldwide). “This amount of land is less than 1% of America’s deserts, less land than currently in use in the US for coal mines, and a tiny fraction of the land currently in agricultural use,” according to the Ausra website. The company notes that CSP also has a much smaller land footprint than large hydro.

These aren’t insurmountable issues, but they will have to be addressed for a mass rollout to succeed. Industry experts say that incentives are still important for the near term to help the industry address these challenges. The European Union has spent some €25 million in the past decade to help develop this technology. In the US, an investment tax credit (ITC) provides R&D incentive, but has to be renewed every two years, creating uncertainty for those trying to develop projects.

Another type of incentive is feed-in tariffs, as is being tried in Spain. These more direct forms of subsidy are not as good at encouraging innovations that lead to price reductions, say some experts. “At those prices, it’s all project driven, you just want to get projects built,” says Arnold Leitner, president of Skyfuel.

Under African Skies

What will it take (besides sunshine) for this technology to reach poorer and middle-income countries? The potential is certainly there for the nations with hot, dry climates. Two of the fastest-growing energy users, China and India, are well endowed with desert solar resources to power their economies. Mexico also has huge solar reserves close to major cities in both Mexico and the US. And of course, the granddaddy of all deserts, the Sahara, has many CSP experts feverish in anticipation.

Last year European engineers unveiled a plan to build thousands of megawatts of CSP plants to connect via high voltage undersea cables to northern Europe – enough to meet up to a sixth of Europe’s electricity needs. Engineers with the German Aerospace Center who carried out the feasibility studies see the project “as a win-win scenario creating energy, water and income for the Middle East and North Africa,” according to the BBC.

An article in the UK Guardian states: “The Desertec project envisages a ring of a thousand of these stations being built along the coast of northern Africa and round into the Mediterranean coast of the Middle East. In this way up to 100 billion watts of power could be generated: two thirds of it would be kept for local needs, the rest – around 30 billion watts – would be exported to Europe.” The plants’ superheated steam would be used to desalinate water (normally an energy-intensive operation).

The deserts of Africa would be a natural for CSP for domestic purposes too, but thus far there has been little progress. In Southern Africa, the South African utility Eskom has been studying plans for a 100 MW CSP plant for many years, but the decision to build keeps getting put off. The site chosen for the plant is one of the best in the world for solar. The company hopes to use local producers for materials as much as possible.

A recent major power shortfall has Eskom in crisis mode, however, and it’s not clear if the new CSP plant will benefit from or be sunk by the turbulence. What is clear, however, is that Eskom will need to find cleaner ways to produce energy. Currently, coal-fired plants produce about 90% of South Africa’s power. According to Eskom’s CEO, if Eskom were a country, it would rank 25th among the world’s largest emitters of carbon dioxide. The huge utility, which supplies power to neighbors as well, is also looking to build a string of nuclear plants, and the world’s biggest dam on the Congo River.

Other Southern Africa nations are farther behind. Morteza Abekenari, the CEO of Solar Power, a Botswana-based company that manufactures solar panels, says he has for years been trying to convince local energy authorities to buy into the idea of concentrating solar power, without any luck. “When we started, we said that the sun was Botswana’s diamond that would last forever, but the idea of solar energy was like science fiction here,” he told the Francistown Voice.

Go Micro

It’s not surprising that a small nation with low energy needs like Botswana might balk at the big outlays of cash required for large-scale CSP plants and the grid extensions they might require. But there is another option that could prove workable for areas where grid expansion is impractical. Micro CSP is a smaller scale version of its big brother that is easier to install and can be cost-effectively shipped long distances.

At least one company, the Hawaii-based Sopogy, has developed a rooftop unit that can power a single building or industrial complex. Unlike standard CSP components, the Sopogy unit was developed with more humid climates in mind, and the company is now beginning to market worldwide for large industrial users and residential/hotel complexes. Their systems range from 500KW-10MW.

“I believe there is great potential for micro-CSP to make a difference in developing countries,” says Sopogy’s Al Yuen. “This is especially true for the application of process heat for industrial purposes, which can be generated at 60-70% efficiency and would be the lowest cost solar solution.”

Clearly, CSP is a very exciting alternative with huge potential – but like other new renewables, it is only part of the solution. “No one thing will be the answer to renewable energy to power the grid. CSP will contribute more and more. Wind’s role will grow. And ocean power has tremendous potential. A little further out it might be organic solar cells and solar cells that use nanomaterials. You’ll see a combination based on geography and cost,” says NREL’s George Douglas.

More information:

Concentrating Solar Thermal Power Now! is a “blueprint for action” that aims to accelerate market introduction of CSP. The 2005 report (now being updated for a late-2008 re-release), written by Greenpeace and the European Solar Thermal Industry Association, “demonstrates that there are no technical, economic or resource barriers to supplying 5% of the world’s electricity needs from solar thermal power by 2040 – even against the challenging backdrop of a projected doubling in global electricity demand.” Download the report.

Learn more about plans for CSP in the Sahara

Contact us:

Lori Pottinger
+1 510 848 1155

Tech firm will build 10-megawatt, 50-acre solar farm

February 26, 2008

Tech firm will build 10-megawatt, 50-acre solar farm

With help from the state, Honolulu-based solar technology firm Sopogy Inc. plans to build a 50-acre solar farm on Oahu capable of generating about 10 megawatts of power, enough energy to power about 30,000 homes.

The company is seeking up to $35 million in special-purpose revenue bonds from the state for the project.

Company President Darren Kimura declined to disclose the project’s location but said he expects the systems to be in operation by late next year.

The project would use Sopogy’s proprietary solar collectors, which concentrate the sun’s power to heat mineral oil, which is then run through a turbine to create electricity.

Sopogy plans to sell the power to Hawaiian Electric Co.

“What we’re trying to do is bring large-scale solar energy to Hawaii,” Kimura told PBN. “It’s particularly important for Oahu because of the density of the population — there are so many users on the grid with the military and hospitality industry here.”

Last year, the state awarded Sopogy $10 million in special-purpose revenue bonds for a 1-megawatt demonstration solar farm at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in Kailua-Kona on the Big Island.

Solar-power ‘farms’ catching on as well

February 10, 2008

Sopogy 10 Megawatt Solar Farm

Solar electrical systems aren’t only being considered for homes and business buildings.

At least three solar farms are being considered for Hawai’i. The James Campbell Co. last month signed an agreement with a Hoku Scientific Inc. unit to plan a Kapolei Sustainable Energy Park that would be capable of generating 1.5 mega watts of power, or enough to power 6,700 homes for a year.

The photovoltaic farm would be the largest such facility on O’ahu, though plans are afoot for an even larger 10-megawatt solar farm on O’ahu using a slightly different technology known as concentrating solar power. Sopogy Inc., a Honolulu-based company, wants to build the facility with the help of up to $35 million of special purpose revenue bonds.

Sopogy already is in the process of planning and building a 1-megawatt solar farm using its technology at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority on the Big Island.

Instead of employing photovoltaic cells that convert light to electricity, the system makes use of curved mirrors that intensify and focus sun energy on a pipe filled with a fluid. After being heated, the fluid can be used to drive turbines and generate electricity, for use in absorption electricity or steam creation.

While the technology has been around for more than 30 years, Sopogy says it has a design that makes the process more efficient.

“It’s a very interesting approach,” said Darren Kimura, president of Sopogy, which last year attracted more than $9 million in venture capital funding.

“We feel very comfortable with moving forward with a significantly larger project.”

Kimura said he is receiving calls and e-mails on a regular basis asking about the technology, which, unlike photovoltaic, can be used to generate electricity at night by storing the heated fluid during the day for use hours later.

Kimura declined to say where the O’ahu solar farm might be located and said he has been in discussions with Hawaiian Electric Co. about the project.

—Greg Wiles

Sopogy Featured on Renewable Energy Access Podcast

January 31, 2008

Sopogy on Renewable Energy Access Podcast

CSP: Market Trends and New Technologies

by Stephen Lacey, Podcast Editor

Peterborough, New Hampshire []

Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) is emerging as one of the most promising utility-scale renewable energy sources. The launch of Nevada Solar One last June sparked a revival for this so-called “sleeping giant” in the U.S. and marked the first of a series of important developments for the industry. But there is still much uncertainty about the mid-term prospects for CSP, as the possibility of the investment and production tax credits expiring hangs over the industry.

Faced with this rocky investment climate, the U.S. is falling behind countries like Spain, which has a generous feed-in tariff for CSP developers. Mike Taylor, Director of Research for the Solar Electric Power Association just got back from a trip to Spain where he toured a few different projects and talked to developers and financiers. Taylor and CSP Today founder Belen Gallego will tell us about how the Spanish industry is benefiting from the country’s renewable energy support structure.

We’ll also speak with Ausra Executive Vice President John O’Donnell about the company’s unique parabolic trough collectors and about how uncertainty in the U.S. market may impacting its aggressive business plan.

Finally, Darren Kimura, President and CEO of Sopogy talks about micro-CSP and how the company’s technology can play a major role in the distributed generation sector.

Inside Renewable Energy offers the latest in renewable energy news and information.

Play Sopogy CSP Podcast

Sopogy Inc. named Venture Capital Deal of the Year

January 24, 2008

Honolulu Advertiser Recognizes Sopogy

Sopogy Inc. named Venture Capital Deal of the Year

Advertiser Staff

The Hawaii Venture Capital Association named Sopogy Inc. its Venture Capital Deal of the Year winner for 2007. Sopogy, which was founded by entrepreneur Darren Kimura, has technology that provides solar power to the distributed power generation market. The company raised a large funding round from local and mainland venture capital firms qualifying it for the award.

Sopogy and other winners will be honored at HVCA’s annual Venture Capital Deal of the Year Awards Luncheon on Jan. 24 at the Plaza Club in Honolulu.

Expansion to the mainland isn’t always bad

January 16, 2008

The Star Bulletin & Sopogy

Tech View – The Star Bulletin


John Agsalud

As the local technology industry moves forward, several kamaaina organizations have opened offices outside of Hawaii. These events are almost always greeted with a chorus of groans from the usual suspects. Feelings of ungratefulness and abandonment abound, especially when the company in question has taken advantage of local benefits such as tax breaks. Often, however, we believe that such actions can be, and most often are, beneficial to the local community. This is especially true in cases where a company continues to maintain a Hawaii presence. Such companies usually open a mainland office for the sole purpose of improving their performance. Most times, such companies don’t abandon their local offices, and, in fact, increase their Hawaii operations in proportion to the overall expansion.The main reason cited by organizations that employ this strategy is geographical. For one, they desire to be closer to their potential markets. Clearly, we have a very limited market for just about anything here in Hawaii, given our population and remote location.

Furthermore, this strategy allows companies to be closer to sources of capital. While the local investment community is growing, it pales in comparison to what can be found elsewhere. Typically, investors like to be close to their money to keep an eye on it, and thus are reluctant to invest in an organization thousands of miles away.

Another reason for opening a mainland site is that resources are cheaper. For example, land, especially in rural locations, can be much cheaper on the mainland.

As an example consider Sopogy, a solar power company founded here in 2006. Using technology developed in Hawaii, Sopogy expanded to Idaho to work on its first utility-scale project. Sopogy continues to maintain its Hawaii presence.

Says founder Darren Kimura, “Companies with global ambitions have to expand outside of Hawaii to service key customer markets. That doesn’t mean we’re leaving the islands. On the contrary, we’d love to expand our Hawaii presence.”

Lastly, a mainland presence improves the odds of a buyout, which can result in windfalls for the local owners. History has shown that when local people come into money, they invariably put a lot of it back into the Hawaii community.

So next time you hear about a local company opening a mainland office, don’t assume it’s all bad. Upon closer inspection, it’s easy to spot the advantages for the entire community.

John Agsalud is president of ISDI Technologies Inc., a Honolulu-based IT consultancy. Call him at 944-8742 or e-mail

Press Release – Dr. Al Yuen is named Director of Corporate Development

January 6, 2008



Date: 1/5/08

Subject: Sopogy names Al Yuen, Ph.D. Director of Corporate Development

Contact: Sopogy Corporate Communications


Sopogy names Al Yuen, Ph.D. Director of Corporate Development

Honolulu, HI – Sopogy, Inc. manufacturer of MicroCSP™ solar technologies announced the appointment of Al Yuen, Ph.D. as Director of Corporate Development. Based in San Jose, California, Yuen will oversee corporate growth, marketing and strategic planning. He will report directly to President and CEO Darren T. Kimura.

Most recently Yuen served as General Manager of Coherent Semiconductor (NASDAQ: COHR). Prior to his time at Coherent he was the VP of Sales and Marketing of Emcore Corporation (NASDAQ: EMKR). He also spent 12 years with Hewlett Packard Corporation (NYSE: HP) and recently authored “Bill & Dave’s Memos” a book based on the writings of Bill Hewlett and Dave Packard.

Yuen is a seasoned entrepreneur founding 2 Silicon Valley based start-up companies, raising over $30 million in venture financing and taking both start-ups from conception to revenue.

“Al is a very accomplished entrepreneur and is recognized for his ability to establish and preserve company culture while achieving growth and financial excellence. We are excited that someone of his caliber recognizes the value of Sopogy’s unique technology and thrilled that he has accepted the challenge to bring our concentrated solar products to market” said Darren T. Kimura, CEO.

Yuen earned his B.S. in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from the University of California, Berkeley and his M.S. and Ph.D. in Electrical and Computer Engineering from the University of California, Santa Barbara.

About Sopogy

Sopogy specializes in the innovative MicroCSP™ solar concentrator technology. MicroCSP™ brings the economics of large solar energy deployments to the industrial, commercial and utility sectors in a smaller more cost effective package. Please visit for more information.

Hawaii tech firms move offices and expand facilities to Mainland

December 28, 2007

Hawaii tech firms move offices and expand facilities to Mainland

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

Four Hawaii tech companies expanded their businesses to the Mainland this year, with two moving their headquarters to California.

While some view the moves as bad news for the state’s economy, others in the tech industry see them as positive growth.

“There’s definitely a glass-half-empty view,” said Yuka Nagashima, president and CEO of the state High Technology Development Corp. “The community tends to view a departure from Hawaii as a death sentence or a result of tech economic development policies that didn’t work.”

She said moving offices to the Mainland may be inevitable for some Hawaii tech firms, citing such reasons as better access to capital, being closer to customers, and lower costs for power and land.

Kona Blue Water Farms, an aquaculture company, announced last month that it will move its headquarters to San Francisco to be closer to its biggest market and have better access to potential investors. The company says 80 percent of its Kona Kampachi-brand yellowtail is sold on the Mainland.

At the same time, Kona Blue Water Farms said it will double its open-ocean facilities on the Big Island, adding to its eight existing cages off the Kona coast.

San Francisco also was the choice for EzRez Software, which moved its headquarters there in May for reasons similar to those of Kona Blue.

Soon after the move, EzRez Software announced it had secured $15 million in financing from two venture capital firms in San Francisco. The founder of one of the investment firms joined EzRez’s board of directors.

The company, founded in Hawaii in 2003, makes software to help businesses enhance their Web presence to sell air, hotel, rental car and vacation services online. It maintains a Honolulu field office.

Meanwhile, Hoku Scientific and Sopogy Inc., both of Honolulu, announced plans this year to build Mainland facilities to expand their solar technology businesses beyond Hawaii.

Hoku is building a $300 million polysilicon plant in Pocatello, Idaho, using about $240 million in pre-payments for polysilicon orders, which is used in solar panels.

Solar technology firm Sopogy said in August it plans to build a demonstration facility under a contract with Avista Utilities of Spokane, Wash. Sopogy will install an undisclosed number of the solar reflectors it builds. The technology takes energy from the sun to heat oil, which is then run through a turban to create electricity. | 955-8001

Sopogy, Small Scale Solar Thermal Raising Cash

October 31, 2007

Earth 2 Tech - Sopogy

Written by Katie Fehrenbacher

Everyone from Google’s “green energy czar” to Vinod Khosla to several well-funded startups are looking at solar thermal as one way to offer massive amounts of utility-scale clean energy. But what about solar thermal on a smaller scale — even on rooftops?

Honolulu-based Sopogy thinks there is a market for lil’ solar thermal and the five-year-old company is in the process of raising a $9 million Series B round, which CEO Darren Kimura tells us is already 80 percent committed.

The company has already raised $3 million from investors Energy Industry Holdings, Kolohala Holdings, and Tradewinds Capital Management, and has a $10 million commitment in revenue bonds from the state of Hawaii to build and operate a solar plant in Sopogy’s home state.

Most solar thermal technology uses mirrors to concentrate rays onto tubes of liquid that can, in turn, power turbines. Several startups like Ausra, Solel, and BrightSource are working on large-scale solar thermal power plants.

Sopogy, on the other hand, says it has reduced the manufacturing process of its collectors so that the technology is lower cost and easier to install than larger solar thermal systems, and delivers on a scale in the single megawatts. CNET says each individual collector produces 500 watts, but that the collectors can be strung together for more wattage.

We’re not sure how the economics will eventually play out, or if industrial and commercial sites will look to this technology for an answer to clean energy. But the startup is testing its technology at the utility Avista’s Clean Energy Test Site and is working on getting a 1-megawatt solar system up and running in Hawaii. The company says that Hawaii’s “highest electricity rates in the U.S.” give its technologies “a competitive marketplace to develop and mature.”

Solar Thermal Plant Planned for NELHA

September 21, 2007

PBN Sopogy Plans Power Project for NELHA

Solar, OTEC power plants planned to energize NELHA

Pacific Business News (Honolulu) – September 21, 2007

PBN file photo

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Ron Baird takes his charge seriously.

Driving behind a speeding tour bus making its way through the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, he tosses over a scrap of paper and says: “Write down that license plate number.”

In his office, the chief executive officer of the lab sits in a chair beside a plaque with gold lettering proclaiming: It CAN be done.

But two years after his appointment, despite increased water and lease rates, the lab is still struggling to meet expectations that it cover the rising costs of its own operations, projected this year at $5.2 million.

And that isn’t the only problem: “There is no energy at the energy lab,” Baird said.

Two new solar projects are coming online, with Sopogy Inc. in the permitting phase of developing a one-megawatt plant on the site and the Hawaii County Economic Opportunity Council installing a model solar-powered home running off 2.3 kilowatts. That project went live last week.

The state also is in the process of issuing two requests for proposals, one for a solar project that would generate five megawatts of power, and another for a one-megawatt ocean thermal energy conversion plant.

“The whole point is to put some energy back,” Baird said. “We should have been a leader in energy. As long as I’m here, we will be.”

The solar project would cost between $25 million and $30 million to build, Baird said, while the ocean thermal plant would cost between $15 million and $20 million.

Those projects — and most other new initiatives wanting to come into the near-capacity facility — would require upgrades to the infrastructure at the lab, the roads and pipes that would make the developments possible.

The state plans to spend $1.3 million on improvements, including $312,000 for the construction of groundwater monitoring wells that could aid an incoming ocean thermal energy conversion plant.

The decision to put in new alternative energy sources comes as the state asks the Public Utilities Commission to allow it to move renewable power generated at one state facility to another over utility lines, a process known as intragovernmental wheeling, without incurring retail costs.

It could allow power suppliers at the lab to produce energy and sell it closer to cost, rather than retail price, to state-run facilities at the lab, as well as the nearby Kona International Airport. Combined, the two facilities use about six megawatts of power, Baird said.

That would help the lab meet its bottom line and lower the cost of water for its aquaculture tenants, who at the beginning of September saw an almost 20 percent jump in the price of water pumped from the ocean. Energy accounts for about 70 percent of the cost of that water.

“For the future of aquaculture at this site, it’s imperative that we cap our costs as much as possible,” Baird said. The intragovernmental wheeling plan could help do that.

About half of the 40 tenants at the lab work in aquaculture, lured to the site by seawater pumped from the ocean to the buildings that populate the facility.

On Sept. 1, its tenants began paying increased rates for the water, despite government subsidies of up to $365,000 to offset the cost of electricity needed to pump water from the ocean.

Baird sent a letter to aquaculture tenants, preparing them for the price increase. The new rate is an equation rather than a set number, 20.6 cents per 1,000 gallons with a surcharge for energy and a credit based on the level of water usage.

Those costs, combined with agricultural leases at $500 an acre, have some tenants contemplating leaving the lab, Baird said. “As their leases come up for renewal, that’s a decision they are going to have to make.”

The proposed power projects are not without challenges, namely getting power produced out of the lab and onto the utility’s lines.

When Sopogy first looked to install its solar project at the facility in 2004, it found that existing utility lines could not carry the amount of power it produced from the park to the main substation.

Sopogy moved to a lab location near the road connecting the facility to the airport and Kona, where utility infrastructure with higher capacity could take the power it produced. The company is in the process of negotiating a power purchase agreement with Hawaii Electric Light Co. Inc. | 955-8039

Concentrating on solar power in Hawaii

September 14, 2007


Sopogy solar thermal

Interest in using solar-thermal power, or concentrated solar power, to generate electricity from heat is perking up.

Hawaiian start-up Sopogy is taking a novel approach by taking the basic trough design of solar-thermal power plants, and shrinking it down for commercial or relatively small-scale utility use. Its collectors concentrate sunlight onto a tube filled with a liquid to create steam to turn a turbine that makes electricity.

Credit: Sopogy

New York Times: Hawaiian Firm Shrinks Solar Thermal Power

September 14, 2007

New York Times Sopogy

Hawaiian firm shrinks solar thermal power

It’s not as common as solar photovoltaic panels, but Hawaiian start-up Sopogy thinks small-scale solar thermal makes sense.
By Martin LaMonica
Staff Writer, CNET
Published: September 14, 2007, 4:00 AM PDT

Hawaiian firm shrinks solar thermal power

Perhaps it’s not surprising that balmy Hawaii is home to a company that’s pushing the envelope of solar thermal technology.

Start-up Sopogy, based in Honolulu, has taken the basic design of large solar thermal power plants and shrunk it down so it can fit on a building’s roof.

What’s new:

Start-up Sopogy this fall will begin testing a solar thermal system that can generate electricity on-site, rather than in giant power plants.

Bottom line:

Solar thermal technology, or concentrating solar power, is getting more interest because it appears to be one of the more cost-effective renewable energies but it has not been commercially proven yet for distributed generation.

Demo models of its electricity-generating solar collectors–essentially metal half-pipes with a reflective coating–are now being tested with a Fortune 500 company and a few utility customers, according to company president and CEO Darren Kimura.

To expand, this fall the venture-funded company intends to raise an additional $9 million, which it hopes to secure by the end of the year, he said.

Concentrating solar power, or CSP, uses reflective troughs or dishes to concentrate sunlight to heat a liquid that flows through a pipe above the troughs. That heated liquid, which can be oil or water, is converted into steam to turn an electric turbine.

On Monday, start-up Ausra announced that it has received $40 million in venture funding to finance product development and construction of a large-scale 175-megawatt solar thermal power plant in California.

That’s one of many projects, such as Nevada Solar One, now being pursued in desert areas around the world. The customers are utilities, which need to boost the amount of renewable energy they generate to meet government regulations.

But Sopogy’s thinking small. Each individual collector produces 500 watts. That’s roughly what a house consumes, but strung together in an array on the ground or on a roof, these panels could supply a chunk of a commercial building’s needs, for example.

In a project in Hawaii, the company will be connecting several of its MicroCSP units together to generate one megawatt, according to Kimura. That plant, now in the permitting phase, is expected to go online in January of next year and be completed by late summer.

Photos: Concentrating on solar power in Hawaii Last month Sopogy signed on Avista Utilities, based in Spokane, Wash., to test the system in northern Idaho scheduled to be operating by next summer.

Coal or natural gas-fired power plants can generate tens or hundreds of megawatts. But utilities are looking at different options for power generation during peak times, such as the middle of a hot day, when the demand–and price–of electricity is highest.

“On balance, CSP has a huge advantage in most cases over say, wind, because it produces power when people need it the most,” said Alex Klein, an analyst at Emerging Energy Research. “CSP projects are effectively competitive at higher prices because they are generating electricity at peak times.”

Solar systems–both thermal and photovoltaic–also have the advantage of being modular, so as they are scaled up, the price per kilowatt tends to go down, Klein added.

Corporations such as Wal-Mart, which is installing solar systems in Hawaii and California, invest in renewable energy to lock in to a fixed electricity rate over several years, while spiffing up their “green” credentials.

Industry experts foresee wider adoption of solar thermal power plants in desert areas because, with government incentives, they approach the cost of power generation from fossil fuels.

The U.S. National Renewable Energy Laboratories estimates that solar thermal technology can supply hundreds of gigawatts of electricity, or more than 10 percent of demand.

Ausra CEO Peter Le Lievre earlier this week said that about 8,500 square miles could supply all of its electricity needs of the United States.

By contrast, Sopogy’s approach is to generate electricity on-site and in a wide range of environments, not just deserts. Apart from providing ample heat, coming from Hawaii gives the company an excellent test ground, Kimura said.

“Hawaii has a harsh environment. There are earthquakes, storms; there is salt water in the air (which can damage mirrors). Since it’s designed to work in Hawaii, it’ll work virtually anywhere in the world,” he said.

The company is using nanomaterials to coat the reflective troughs to make them more durable, he added.

Commercial customers can use the steam for purposes other than generating electricity, such as heating or cooling through absorption air conditioners.

The cost factor
An important piece of data still needed on Sopogy’s demonstration systems is cost per kilowatt in different areas and at different times of the year.

Right now, its system can produce electricity at somewhere between 12 and 16 cents per kilowatt-hour. That’s higher than fossil fuel sources of power, but Kimura expects the price to go down if products can be manufactured on a larger scale.

Emerging Energy Research’s Klein said that 16 cents per kilowatt-hour for a small-size CSP system would be compelling, although he’s doubtful it can be done now.

At that price, Sopogy’s MicroCSP system would be competitive with solar photovoltaic (PV) panels that convert sunlight into electricity, or concentrating solar photovoltaic technology, where lenses focus light on solar cells to boost output.

“It’s an interesting model because it does present a competitor for solar PV. But it depends whether they can demonstrate that they can compete on cost and ease of installation,” he said.

Another important consideration is the ongoing maintenance costs, noted Reese Tisdale, a senior analyst at Emerging Energy Research. Because there are few moving parts, solar PV installations tend to have a simpler maintenance.

Tisdale said Sopogy appears to have a unique approach in the solar thermal world. But other energy companies have shrunk down large-scale power generation technologies to a smaller scale. For example, Infinia is making a relatively small solar Stirling engine.

“It’s another alternative. I definitely think it’s worth exploring,” Tisdale said.

New Energy Finance – Week in Review

September 6, 2007

Clean energy firms go into the final four months of the year uncertain about the effect of this summer’s financial turbulence on the attitude of investors towards their sector. The signs from the last week were that venture capitalists, at least, have retained a strong appetite for renewable energy investments, with the solar sector the one most in vogue.
In the last few days, photovoltaic cell developer Plextronics banked USD 20.6m of Series B financing from venture capitalists, and started to plan how to spend the money on research and the expansion of its manufacturing operations.
Solexant, another PV cell maker, although one that uses nanostructures rather than printed organic polymers as in the case of Plextronics, said it had raised USD 4.3m in Series A funding from Californian venture capital firms.
Finally, Solarcentury, a UK based installer of solar systems, caught USD 27m worth of pre- IPO funding from blue chip funds including Zouk Ventures and Good Energies.
A fourth solar firm, Sopogy, which develops solar thermal electricity generation systems, is clearly confident that investors will continue to back its sector. It announced last week that it wanted to raise USD 9m in Series B funding during the autumn.
Sopogy says it aims to build projects in the USD 10m to USD 30m range, based on its parabolic trough solar technology.

Governor Lingle names Sopogy CEO to Innovation Council

August 31, 2007

Lingle names 18 to Innovation Council

August 30 – “You are the best of the best, and I am counting on you to help lead the way in increasing innovation in Hawai`i,” Governor Lingle said at the first meeting of the Hawai`i Innovation Council.

Established by the Governor through an Executive Order on June 1, 2007, the Hawai`i Innovation Council will serve as the principal advisory group to her Administration on innovation policy issues, as well as specific measures and actions that the state can take to improve Hawai`i’s innovation capacity.

“Studies that outline the criteria for suitable environments for innovation show that Hawai`i is a perfect place for it.” Karl Hess, a member of the National Science Board.

The 15-member council is co-chaired by three nationally-recognized entrepreneurs who are Hawai`i residents or part-time residents. They are Marc Benioff, chairman and CEO of; Ron Higgins, president and CEO of RSHF, LLC; and Jay Shidler, founder and managing partner of The Shidler Group.

The Council will meet on a quarterly basis to discuss and assess progress, and make recommendations on Hawai`i’s innovation policies and programs; coordinate with state, federal, county and private sector organizations to increase the positive economic impact of Hawai`i’s innovation assets and resources; and provide a forum for ideas to enable Hawai`i to become a global leader in innovation and technology research, development and product creation.

Three entrepreneurs will be co-chairmen:

* Mark Benioff, chairman and CEO of and a part-time Big Island resident.
* Ron Higgins, president and CEO of investment management firm RSHF LLC.
* Jay Shidler, founder and managing partner of The Shidler Group of Honolulu.

Other council members are:

* Taft Armandroff, director of the W.M. Keck Observatory on the Big Island.
* Kirk Belsby, vice president for endowment for Kamehameha Schools.
* Dan Berglund, president and CEO of the State Science and Technology Institute, a nonprofit based in Ohio that helps states and communities build tech-based economies.
* Richard Brill, a professor of physical science at the University of Hawaii-Manoa.
* Darrel Galera, principal of Moanalua High School.
* Debra Guerin-Beresini, CEO of International Venture Fund, which has been doing business in Hawaii for 17 years.
* Karl Hess, board member of the National Science Foundation & Policy Advisors to the U.S. President and Congress.
* Leigh Jerome, director of The Institute for Triple Helix Innovation, a nonprofit based at UH-Manoa’s John A. Burns School of Medicine.
* Darren Kimura, president and CEO of Sopogy Inc., a Hawaii-based solar energy company.
* Karen Knudsen, chairwoman of the Hawaii State Board of Education.
* Mark Lindsay, teacher at Iolani School and organizer of its For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology Robotics team.
* Mark Loughridge, president of Aloha Island Inc., a Honolulu-based video game and software-development company.
* David McClain, president of the University of Hawaii system.
* John Rand, director of Kapiolani Community College’s Science, Technology, Engineering and Math program.
* Patrick Sullivan, founder, chairman and CEO of Oceanit, a Hawaii-based science and engineering company, and president and CEO of Hoana Medical, a company that makes medical devices.

Governor's Innovation Council - Kimura, Higgins, Governor Lingle

L-R (Darren T. Kimura, Chairman Ron Higgins, Governor Linda Lingle, Co-Chairman Jay Shidler)

Congressman Abercrombie visits Sopogy @ NELHA

August 30, 2007

August 29, 2007

Keahole, HI – Darren T. Kimura, President and CEO of Sopogy, Inc. hosted Congressman Neil Abercrombie on Wednesday for a tour of the Sopogy beta solar farm at the Natural Energy Laboratories of Hawaii. Congressman Abercrombie made a special visit to the Natural Energy Laboratories to view Sopogy’s SopoNova technology and receive a briefing on the proposed 1 megawatt solar farm project, the first solar concentrating system in the state and the largest solar power facility in the history of the State of Hawaii.
“I believe that Hawaii can one day be energy independent. With that goal in mind, I am working to support alternative energy systems like Sopogy in the State of Hawaii. This is imperative to make our island more secure and to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are beginning to wreak havoc on our weather systems and coral reefs” said Congressman Abercrombie regarding energy independence.

“The congressman’s support is key in helping us get Hawaii independent of imported fossil fuels” said Darren T. Kimura. “The 1 megawatt solar farm will provide enough power for 1,000 Hawaiian homes and use clean, renewable energy.”

About Sopogy, Inc.
Sopogy, Inc. is dedicated to enabling the renewable energy economy by dramatically increasing energy production through widespread use of its Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) technologies. Sopogy offers a cost-effective method for producing process heat used to create electricity, air conditioning, steam and hot water.

For detailed information about Sopogy’s MicroCSP technology, please visit

Sopogy President is awarded first ever Green Entrepreneur of the Year Award

August 28, 2007

Posted at 8:40 a.m., Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Advertiser Staff

Actor Jason Scott Lee will give a keynote address at the inaugural “Who’s Keeping Hawai’i Green” event sponsored by Hawai’i Home+Remodeling, from 5:30 to 9 p.m. Thursday at Moanalua Gardens. He also will receive an award.The project involves local partners — businesses and individual — who are environmentally conscious of keeping Hawai’i “green.”

Awardees will include: Maui County Recycling Program WasteWater Reclamation Program, Hawaiian Mahogany, Kona Brewing Company, ProVision, Hawaiian Earth Products, Gentry Homes, Ferraro Choi and Associates, Lincolne Scott Inc., Dowling Company Inc., Dev Braganza of Hunt Development Group, The Green House, Betty Gearen, Ma’o Organic Farm, Jason Scott Lee, Gail Grabowsky, Darren Kimura of Sopogy & Energy Industries; and Chuck Burrows for the lifetime achievement.

Sopogy Seeks $9M To Grow Concentrating Solar Business

August 27, 2007
By Jonathan Shieber 8/27/2007

Concentrating solar technology company Sopogy Inc. is launching a new $9 million fund-raising effort as it expands its business in the continental U.S., the company’s CEO told VentureWire.

The Honolulu-based company is establishing its sales office in California and is looking at opening another office in the Midwest, according to an interview with Chief Executive Darren Kimura.

“We’re at the expansion stage,” Kimura said. He plans to use the funds that the company expects to raise to grow its mainland presence and expand its manufacturing and research and development, he said.

Sopogy has already established a foothold in the U.S. with its recently announced deployment of the company’s concentrating solar power technology at the Avista Clean Energy Test Site in Rathdrum, Idaho. Spokane, Wash.-based Avista Corp. produces, transmits and distributes energy across three Northwestern states.

The trial will demonstrate how Sopogy’s technology will perform in a Northern climate, demonstrating power on a utility-grid scale, Sopogy said.

Sopogy has developed a small-scale solar thermal technology that can be used to process heat, or for electricity generation, the company said. The goal is to develop distributed systems that can be cheaply installed on residential and light-commercial rooftops, to supply renewable power to utility grids, Kimura said.

It has been a busy summer for Sopogy. In addition to lining up the project in Idaho, the company also received approval to receive $10 million in special purpose revenue bonds from Hawaii.

The bonds will assist with the planning, design and construction of a solar power plant at Hawaii’s National Energy Laboratory or another suitable site, the company said.

The company had previously raised $3 million in seed funding from undisclosed institutional and angel investors. Sopogy is listed on the Web site of the portfolio of Hawaii Angels, a nonprofit investment group that pools money from individuals.