Sopogy Features Solar Hybrid Electricity & H20 System

April 13, 2010

Posted by Joanna Schroeder – April 13th, 2010

Sopogy, Inc. has partnered with Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida to showcase its SopoNova solar panels. The project, developed by STG International, has been designed to be a model for cost-effective, stand alone solar power solutions for health clinics in Africa.

According to the company, the MicroCSP system generates solar energy by reflecting the sun’s energy from mirrors into a receiver tube, heating a transfer fluid to create steam. The steam then spins a turbine that drives a generator and produces electricity. The system also includes storage for use on cloudy and rainy days.

“A particularly important breakthrough has been Sopogy’s development of smaller scale parabolic trough collectors that can be built at a lower cost, using commonly available manufacturing facilities and conventional materials,” says Tal Ziv, VP of Operations at Sopogy. “Not only can our modules be produced locally, but our collectors can also be manufactured anywhere in the world.”

One of the features that makes the system unique is that it combines both solar energy to produce electricity and hot water. This system will provide three kilowatts of electricity, enough to power a health clinic that sees up to 100 patients a day as well as produce up to 300 litres of hot water for clinic use.

“This project exemplifies the efforts of organizations committed to environmental sustainability,” said Darren T. Kimura, CEO of Sopogy. “Sopogy is proud to focus on the triple bottom line using our technology to create local jobs, generating green energy, while staying focused on our business.”

related topics: Electricity, News, Solar

Sopogy Micro-scaled Concentrating Solar Power System to Power Up Florida College

April 6, 2010

St. Petersburg, FloridaMarch 23, 2010 - Sopogy, Inc., manufacturer of the proprietary micro-scaled concentrating solar power (MicroCSP) system, is demonstrating its SopoNova™ solar panels at Eckerd College in St. Petersburg, Florida. The project developed by STG International (previously known as Solar Turbine Group) is designed to be a model for cost effective, stand alone solar power solutions for health clinics in Africa.

The MicroCSP system generates thermal energy by reflecting the sun’s energy from mirrors into a receiver tube, heating a transfer fluid to create steam. The steam spins a turbine which drives a generator and produces electricity. The system also includes thermal energy storage that allows power to be produced during cloudy periods.

Sopogy’s solar collectors feature a proprietary frame and storm protection, keeping the system safe during weather events that could include flying debris from hurricane strength winds. All components are also enclosed in an aerodynamic, rust-resistant housing which makes Sopogy’s collectors suitable for use in climates ranging from deserts to tropical environments.

“A particularly important breakthrough has been Sopogy’s development of smaller scale parabolic trough collectors that can be built at a lower cost, using commonly available manufacturing facilities and conventional materials,” says Tal Ziv, VP of Operations at Sopogy. “Not only can our modules be produced locally, but our collectors can also be manufactured anywhere in the world.”

The system is a hybrid electricity and hot water system.  It will provide three kilowatts of electricity, enough to power a multi-building health clinic that treats between 50 and 100 patients per day in Lesotho, as well as produce up to 300 liters of hot water for staff and clinician use.

Other project collaborators include Krinner Ground Screws, the Florida Green Builders Coalition and Water Oak Development Group.

“This project exemplifies the efforts of organizations committed to environmental sustainability,” said Darren T. Kimura, CEO of Sopogy. “Sopogy is proud to focus on the triple bottom line using our technology to create local jobs, generating green energy, while staying focused on our business,” he adds.

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.

About Sopogy
Sopogy specializes in MicroCSP™ solar technologies that bring the economics of large solar energy systems to the industrial, commercial and utility sectors in a smaller, robust and more cost effective package. Sopogy’s goal is to create solar solutions that improve the quality of life and simplify the solar power business.  Please visit www.sopogy.org for more information.

About STG International
Previously operating as the Solar Turbine Group, STG International is a non-profit organization based in Cambridge, Massachusetts whose mission is to provide technical, financial and intellectual support, assistance, and training to projects and organizations focused on bringing sustainable energy technologies to communities across the developing world.  Please visit www.stginternational.org for more information.

Contact: Dy Phung
Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator
Sopogy, Inc.
dphung@sopogy.org
808-237-2422

CSP on the roof: a MicroCSP revolution

February 16, 2010

The implementation of regulations for the production of clean energy in buildings could boost the development of a new market for micro-CSP technology.

Submitted by: ECOticias.com / Red / Agencies, 16.02.2010, 17:16 h

Additional information by Rikki Stancich

 Different regulations aimed at the creation of systems for generating clean energy in buildings, are being introduced in many countries as part of an overall strategy on energy efficiency.

 Given that 74% of U.S. electricity consumption occurs in buildings, it is not surprising that energy efficiency and renewable energy are essential criteria in establishing certification standards for clean building construction, including: LEED certification by the U.S. Green Building Council and the British BREEAM certification.

 This would open new market opportunities for a relatively new technology such as micro-CSP that could be used to generate clean energy in buildings.

  The micro-CSP technology can be used to generate electricity and as a heating or cooling system, being able to generate energy in a range from 75 KW to 20 MW.  Furthermore, due to its size can be installed in small areas such as the roof of a building.

 ”A roof of a small size, such as a shopping center, is sufficient to install the equipment micro-CSP,” says Darren Kimura, CEO of Honolulu-based company Sopogy Inc, which has developed a variety of micro-CSP systems.

 In the case of the technology developed by Sopogy, the operation of ORC (organic ranking cycle) is based on the temperature difference in a closed loop, rather than using steam.  Moreover, unlike the large-scale CSP technology, micro-CSP does not need such strict conditions of solar radiation and can be used in cities.

 This is thanks to the ORC system is not based on a steam turbine and therefore not affected by the decrease in solar radiation produced, for example, by the passage of a cloud that causes a drop in steam temperature and the resulting system malfunction.

 The French producer heat2power version also has its own micro-CSP technology, which uses a combustion engine instead of steam.

 The idea is similar to that of a conventional combustion engine with the difference that in this case the machine is fed with compressed air using an external heat source (air heated in a solar receiver to 1200 ° C) rather than fuel and by internal combustion.  The system uses a solar concentration mechanism in a point and refraction of radiation to a central receiver tower.

 Heat2power model can be produced in small sizes, generate 10 to 500 KW and used from a second hand engine single cylinder 0.5 liter to a large marine engines.

  Like the model Sopogy, heat2power technology can be used to heating, cooling or desalination.

 ”The roofs of industries are an ideal location for small-scale CSP technology.  There are no search costs of land and the system can provide chilled or electricity to the factory, “says Randolph Toom, heat2power director.

 This is important if one considers that in some regions the air conditioning is responsible for more than 50% of electricity consumption in buildings for periods of about 6 months.

 Generation of clean energy without neglecting finance

 The micro-CSP technology can aid the design of buildings cleaner because this system would reduce the consumption of fossil fuels for heating, cooling or power supply in buildings.

  Currently, both the LEED certification and other regulations, do not require the use of a specific clean technology.

  However, micro-CSP systems are presented as a very strong compared to other technologies so that builders can obtain such certifications.

 The LEED certification gives 7 points for a total of 110 points possible for the generation of renewable energy in the building.  The UK BREEAM certification also awards points for using renewable energy or produce low emissions of carbon dioxide.

 In this micro-CSP systems have advantages over other technologies such as solar photovoltaic panels.

  ”It emits more carbon dioxide in the manufacture of photovoltaic panels on the production of micro-CSP systems,” said Rajan Kasetti, Executive Director of the California company Terrafore Inc, a consulting firm on energy and technology in the sector renewable.

 Kasetti also asserts that while PV systems can cover 5-10% of the energy needs of a large building, micro-CSP technology on a roof can provide 30-40% of the required energy.

  Builders tend to avoid the use of systems of renewable energy generation due to the additional costs they pose.  However, should find micro-CSP technology very attractive if one considers that these systems have a shorter amortization period with respect to other options.  Kimura believes that for micro-CSP this period ranges from 3 to 7 years depending on the size of the project.

 ”The use of PV systems increases costs.  But not so with micro-CSP.  In fact, this technology increases the energy efficiency of the building, “says Kimura.

 This is demonstrated by a study of comparative efficiency in air conditioning systems.  The photovoltaic efficiency for these systems would be 9% while that could reach 40% with micro-CSP.

 Randolph Toom adds that the return on investment in the case of the model developed by heat2power is much faster than for other options.  “The approximate cost is about € 300/kw to heat2power system, compared with € 2000/kw of a sterling engine.”

 Furthermore, compared with other energy systems removable small-scale micro-CSP technology is more efficient and given its storage capacity is also a more stable option.

 ”By using micro-CSP can store heat that can be used later to generate electricity or steam in periods of low solar radiation,” notes Kasetti. “CSP technology is much more stable than photovoltaics, which is subject fluctuations, “adds Kasetti.

 Thrusters demand

 Supportive measures such as feed-in tariffs will play a key role in the growth and market penetration of micro-CSP technology.

 ”The proliferation of solar power has occurred in countries where there are favorable feed-in tariffs, such as in parts of Europe,” said Kasetti.

 The British government has recently introduced feed-in tariffs to encourage users and local communities to implement small-scale facilities clean energy production up to 5 MW.

 The British legislation allows users to achieve economic benefits through the installation of clean energy generation.  The government also plans next year’s introduction of measures to encourage the installation of the type of micro-CSP technology.

 These measures will undoubtedly mean a boost for the sector.

 The increase in demand for clean buildings for multinational companies committed since the environmental point of view also influence the expansion of micro-CSP industry.

 ”The builder will have a marketing advantage if the facility has systems for generating clean energy,” says Kasetti.

 But Kimura believes it will take at least five years before micro-CSP technology is commonly used in buildings.

 ”Our challenge now is to educate the public about the benefits of micro-CSP technology and explain that such systems are only usable in the desert and can also be used to generate steam and as cooling systems, “concludes Kimura.

 es.csptoday.com

Rooftop CSP: Greening the cities

February 11, 2010

Green building certification along with a host of demand-drivers may provide micro-CSP with critical market leverage.

By Rajesh Chhabara

Additional reporting by Rikki Stancich

Green building certification is gaining traction in many countries as a means of energy management.

With buildings accounting for some 74 percent of electricity use in the United States, it is hardly surprising that energy efficiency and use of renewable energy have become key criteria in green building certification standards such as US Green Building Council’s LEED certification and UK’s BREEAM certification.

As a relatively new product to market, micro CSP opens up new opportunities for buildings – green or otherwise – to efficiently generate on-site renewable energy.

A portable and scalable on-site solar energy solution, micro CSP can be used to generate electricity, as well as to provide heating and cooling. Suitable for generating energy in the range of 75 KW to 20 MW, micro CSP’s size means the system can be installed in a small area – including on the rooftop of a building.

 “A small rooftop, for example the roof top of a large box store such as Wal-Mart, is sufficient to install the micro CSP system,” says Darren Kimura, chief executive of Honolulu-based Sopogy Inc, which has developed a range of micro CSP solutions.

In Sopogy’s case, the micro version runs of an organic ranking cycle (ORC), which instead of using steam, uses the temperature difference between fluids in a closed loop. Unlike large-scale CSP, which requires desert-like conditions of perfect direct normal irradiation, Sopogy’s micro CSP can operate in or near cities.

This is because the ORC is less vulnerable than plants running off a steam turbine, where a cloud passing overhead can cause the steam temperature to drop and the system to shut down.

France-based technology developer, heat2power, has come up with its own version of micro CSP, which uses CSP to power traditional cylinder engines rather than steam turbines or Stirling engines.

The concept is similar to that of a standard combustion engine, except the engine is powered by compressed air, using an external heat source (air heated on a solar receiver to around 900 – 1200°C) rather than from fuel creating an internal combustion.

Using a point concentrating solar array to reflect light and heat to a central receiver tower, the heat2power model is scalable and can utilise anything from a single cylinder 0.5 litre engine to large marine engines based on marine engine blocks, generating power from 10KW – 5MW.

An added advantage is that the engine runs in an ‘open cycle’ and therefore does not require cooling towers or expensive dry cooling used for condensing steam.

Like Sopogy’s solution,  heat2power’s captures the waste heat, which can then be used for heating, cooling and desalination.

“Factory roof tops are the ideal place for small scale CSP. It doesn’t require purchase of land and the shade of the mirrors lowers the cooling requirements of the building underneath“ says Randolph Toom, managing director of heat2power. 

This is significant, given that in many regions air-conditioning can account for more than 50 percent of the electrical usage in buildings over a six-month period.

Greening the city, not breaking the bank

Micro CSP can help take green building standards to the next level, given that the system reduces the use of fossil fuel to heat, cool and power buildings.

Currently, LEED and other green certification systems do not require specific renewable technology, nor do they standardise energy systems.

However, compared to other options on the table, micro CSP promises to significantly help builders achieve points for certification.

LEED certification currently allows up to seven points for on-site renewable energy, out of the total 110 points possible. BREEAM, UK’s green building certification standard also awards points for the use of low carbon energy and renewable energy.

Here, micro CSP has an advantage over other similar-scale solar products such as photovoltaic panels.

“More carbon is emitted during manufacturing of PV panels than in making micro CSP system,” says Rajan Kasetti, chief executive of California-based Terrafore Inc, a renewable energy consulting and technology firm.

Kasetti also notes that while PV technology may be good for meeting 5-10 percent of a large building’s energy needs, micro CSP on the rooftop can provide 30-40 percent of the energy needed.

Builders, who often cite increased cost of adding renewable energy system as a reason for avoiding them, will find micro CSP’s shorter payback period very attractive. Kimura estimates the payback to range from three to seven years, depending on project size.

“If you use photovoltaic, it does increase the cost. But solar thermal cooling does not. It actually makes the overall building more efficient,” says Kimura.

This is demonstrated via an efficiency comparison in the case of air-conditioning. Photovoltaic efficiency is around 9 percent, compared to solar thermal efficiency, which can be as high as 40 percent. 

Toom similarly notes that the return on investment on the heat2power CSP solution is much faster than for other solar options.

“The cost is roughly €300/kw (US$407/kw) for a heat2power engine, compared with around €2000/kw (US$2,712/kw)  for a Stirling engine or €1000/kw (US$1,356/kw) for a steam turbine,” he says.

Compared to other small-scale renewable energy options, micro CSP is a more efficient and, given its capacity for storage, a more stable option.

 “Using micro CSP, heat can be stored which then can be used to generate power or steam when the load is higher in the evening or when the sky is cloudy,” points out Kasetti.  “CSP is also much more stable than the PV which is subject to fluctuations,” he adds.

Demand drivers

Support policies such as feed-in tariffs will play an important role in increasing the market penetration of distributed generation systems such as micro CSP.

“Solar energy proliferation has happened in countries where there are good feed-in tariffs as in some parts of Europe,” notes Kasetti.

The UK government recently introduced a feed-in tariff scheme to encourage households and local communities to set up small-scale clean energy generation of up to 5 MW.

The UK’s scheme enables households to earn money by installing low carbon electricity generation. The government also plans to introduce renewable heat incentive for installing micro combined heat and power next year.

Such policies, if adopted elsewhere, will undoubtedly boost renewable micro-generation technologies such as micro-CSP.

Increasing demand for green buildings from sustainability-committed multinational companies will also expand the number of micro CSP installations.

“The builder has a marketing advantage if the building is fitted with on-site renewable energy,” says Kasetti.

But Kimura estimates it will take about five years before micro CSP becomes commonplace in buildings.

“Most other CSP companies are selling utility scale power projects. For us, the challenge is in educating people about the benefits of micro CSP and explaining that CSP is not just for the middle of desert and that it can actually be used for generating steam and cooling as well,” he concludes.

To respond to this article, please write to:

Rajesh Chhabara: rajesh.chhabara@csrworks.com

Or write to the editor:

Rikki Stancich: rstancich@gmail.com

Furlough Friday at Sopogy

February 5, 2010

CONNECT.LEARN.EMPOWER.

DATE & TIME: The workshop will be held on Friday, March 12th from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

LOCATION: The Sopogy headquarters at 2660 Waiwai Loop. We will meet at the Sopogy building at 8:15am. Sopogy will be implementing their “Fossil Fuel Free Friday” so all employees, staff, students, and participants are encouraged to attend using an efficient alternative mode of transportation such as walking, bike, bus, or carpool.

EVENT: The workshop is free of charge and open to high school students, especially for those students interested in science, technology, sustainability, and entrepreneurship. Students will take a tour of the facilities, learn about Sopogy’s MicroCSP technology, find out how Energy Industries uses proven technologies to innovatively lower electricity demand, have a discussion with CEO and founder of Sopogy and Energy Industries Darren Kimura, and perform an experimental CSP project using pizza boxes and tin foil to make smores. HiSciTech CEO Keiki-Pua Dancil and Kanu Hawaii Executive Director James Koshiba will be on hand as special guests to discuss the significance of technology and sustainability. Lunch will be provided.As space is limited interested students should respond as soon as possible to reserve a spot and come prepared with an open mind and a passion to learn something new.

To reserve a spot or for more information please contact:

John Rankin           (808) 265-8715  jtrankin@gmail.com

Rechung Fujihira      (808) 840-7337  rechung.fujihira@gmail.com

Special thanks to Round Table Pizza Kailua, Waialua Soda Works, and Styrophobia for providing lunch.

Darren Kimura CEO of Sopogy

Become a Sopogy Facebook Friend at: http://www.facebook.com/?ref=logo#!/pages/Sopogy-Inc/57390177523?ref=ts

Hawaii Business Magazine – Sopogy Innovation Company 2010

January 29, 2010

HawaiiBusiness

SB_DarenKimura

Being Part of the Solution to Big Global Problems

Growing up in Hilo, Darren Kimura saw dock strikes and the closings of sugar plantations and wondered why Hawaii’s people could not be part of their own economic solutions. When the University of Hawaii graduate decided to start a solar-energy business, he chose the much-riskier route of creating new technologies rather than distributing and selling existing products and services.

“Hawaii not only imports oil and exports our dollars for our energy, but we also import technology for renewable energy and export dollars for that, too,” he says. “Renewable energy is the new agriculture and technologies can be designed, developed and deployed here, bringing clean green power to the Islands, but also sold around the world from Hawaii.”

As proof, Sopogy’s invention and manufacture of a unique solar concentrating panel has evolved a new technology called “MicroCSP” (Micro-Concentrating Solar Power), a miniaturized version of larger, decades-old CSP technologies operating in the world’s hot deserts. Reducing the size and improving the durability for a proven solar-energy technology means places like Hawaii – with an ocean salt and volcanic atmosphere, limited land space and tropical-storm weather – can harness sunlight on a large scale for energy.

In December, Sopogy unveiled the world’s first and largest MicroCSP facility, a 4-acre, 500-kilowatt-capacity solar farm in Kona on the Big Island, which can power more than 250 homes and cut oil imports by 2,000 barrels annually. The company says its scalable and modular MicroCSP solar-power collectors, together with its proprietary technologies, have caught international attention and a project is now proposed for Spain. From 2007 to 2008, revenues for the Honolulu-based company of 30 employees soared 680 percent.

However, Kimura says, it wasn’t an overnight success for Sopogy, which is an abbreviation of the words solar-power technology. He started the company in 2002 with his own money and spent the first five years without a profit, while focusing on the development of CSP intellectual properties.

New uses being explored for Sopogy’s technology include creating clean drinking water from sea water and manufacturing portable refrigeration units for farms. These uses are all part of the small company’s big ambition to be part of the solution to the global problems of climate change, energy security and sustainability.

“The culture of innovation has been, and remains, the key to Sopogy’s growth,” says Kimura. “We have the intelligence here in Hawaii to make us the beacon for the rest of the world when it comes to clean and green power.

-By Gail Miyasaki

Sopogy wins Small Business Success Award for innovation

January 28, 2010

Hawaii Business Small Biz Award logo

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Honolulu, Hawaii, January 27, 2010 – Sopogy, Inc., the world’s first micro-concentrated solar power provider, garnered an award in the Innovation category presented at the Hawaii Business 2010 SmallBiz Success Awards Event at the Hawaii Prince Hotel.

Hawaii Business magazine annually honors outstanding Hawaii-based small businesses for rapid sales growth, a unique product, notable longevity, overcoming an unusual challenge or executing a dramatic turnaround.  Nearly 100 nominations were evaluated by a panel of ten judges consisting of C-level executives from Hawaii small businesses and organizations, as well as Hawaii Business magazine senior writers.

“We are pleased to be recognized for innovative excellence by our peers,” said Darren Kimura, Sopogy President and CEO.  “This is another step forward for Sopogy to continue our mission to invent, manufacture and sell the world’s most innovative and affordable solar collectors.  The culture of innovation has been instrumental to our company’s growth so we are very proud to receive this honor, but even more importantly, are especially pleased to have a positive impact on our community and the solar industry at whole.”

Sopogy’s award-winning MicroCSP™ technologies efficiently and cost-effectively generate electricity, steam, solar air conditioning and other thermal energy forms – helping customers achieve their renewable energy goals and faster paybacks for their investment.

Most recently, Sopogy unveiled the first MicroCSP™ solar thermal plant across 3.8 acres at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii (NELHA) in Kona, Hawaii in December 2009.  As the largest solar project in Hawaii, it is aptly named “Holaniku at Keahole Point” which comes from the Hawaiian term for a location that has everything required for self-sufficiency.

Sopogy’s flagship technology, the SopoNova™ has pioneered the concept of MicroCSP by combining the reliable performance of conventional concentrating parabolic trough technologies with several novel and revolutionary features that include the world’s first 270 degree MicroCSP tracker, integrated stands, automatic operation, and custom controls.  Additional innovations include the recently launched Sopoflare™, designed specifically for rooftop installations with a unique, easy mounting and fastening system and the Sopolite™, a fully functional mobile lab unit used to collect solar radiation and weather data at any given location and evaluate a project site’s potential.

Locally, Sopogy has been integral in creating green jobs in Hawaii, encouraging the growth of the technology industry in our State, promoting economic diversification, and attracting foreign and mainland investors.  Sopogy’s homegrown technology will help Hawaii become independent from foreign oil while having the intelligence here in Hawaii that will make us the beacon for the rest of the world when it comes to clean and green power.

About Sopogy
Sopogy specializes in MicroCSP™ solar technologies that bring the economics of large solar energy systems to the industrial, commercial and utility sectors in a smaller, robust and more cost effective package. Sopogy’s goal is to create solar solutions that improve the quality of life and simplify the solar power business.  Please visit www.sopogy.org for more information.

About Hawaii Business Magazine
Founded in 1955, Hawaii Business is the oldest regional business magazine in America. The magazine covers the state’s major industries: tourism, construction, agriculture and real estate. The SB section, which runs every month, covers Hawaii’s small businesses.  Its parent company, PacificBasin Communications, also publishes Honolulu Magazine and Pacific Magazine.  Please visit www.hawaiibusiness.com for more information.

Contact: Dy Phung
Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator
Sopogy, Inc.
dphung@sopogy.org
808-237-2422

Global Solar Thermal Energy Council

January 25, 2010

Hawaii: Electricity through Sunshine and MicroCSP Technology
Submitted by Baerbel Epp on Sun, 01/24/2010 – 09:00.

A solar field for electricity production: The 1,000 parabolic trough collectors by Hawaiian manufacturer Sopogy, which stand in the hot Kona desert on the Big Island of Hawaii, equal the output of a 2 MW thermal power.

Photo: Sopogy/Keahole Solar Power

In the middle of December, the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, USA, inaugurated a huge solar thermal power plant by Hawaiian manufacturer Sopogy, consisting of 1,000 MicroCSP solar panels. With a reflection surface of 5 m2 and a length of 3.7 m, these parabolic trough collectors weigh 68 kg and follow the sun from east to west during the course of the day. Their reflectors are delivered by the German aluminium coating specialist Alanod Aluminium-Veredlung GmbH & Co. KG. They focus the sunlight on the receiver, which is filled with a liquid that heats up while running through a row of MicroCSP units. The demonstration project with a thermal power rating of 2 MW spans across almost 4 acres in the hot Kona desert on the Big Island.

“Through the use of mirrors and optics and an integrated sun tracker, these panels achieve an efficiency of 20 to 40 %, which is much higher than the average efficiency of crystalline photovoltaic modules with about 15 %,” the website of Sopology explains. The company was founded 7 years ago and focuses on bringing new renewable energy technology to the market.

To date, Sopogy has 8 solar thermal energy facilities with MicroCSP technology in operation around the world. They cover a wide range of applications, from solar cooling and process heat to desalination. The latest installation in Hawaii is also the first one to produce electricity. The US $20 million investment includes a lab and some portions of the parabolic trough field that will be used for advanced field R&D. The system also uses a thermal energy storage buffer to store some hot liquid for allowing energy production during cloudy periods and in the evening. Private equity investors supported the project. “We have a power purchase agreement in place, which allows for a reasonable rate of return,” Darren T. Kimura, President and CEO of Sopogy Solar Power Technology, explains.

The background to this story: The state of Hawaii is currently importing 90 % of its energy. The overwhelming dependency on energy imports prompted Governor Linda Lingle to sign a Clean Energy Initiative at the beginning of January 2008. The initiative aims at producing at least 70 % of the islands’ electricity through clean energy by 2030. The concentrated solar thermal technology is a major step towards reaching this ambitious target. Sopogy and its local solar project development partner Keahole Solar Power have the aim of adding 30 MW of MicroCSP power to the electricity grid of the state by 2015.

More information:
www.sopogy.org
www.alanod.com
www.keaholesolarpower.com

Sopogy in the Wave

January 18, 2010

Sopogy, Inc. (Sopogy), founded in 2002 and headquartered in Honolulu, specializes in the development, design, manufacture, and distribution of MicroCSP™ technology. Their award-winning solar collectors are used for power, steam/process heat, hybrid, desalination, refrigeration, and solar cooling. Sopogy is focused on expanding the middle market for MicroCSP™ in areas that conventional large-scale Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) is not viable. Their goal is to lower the cost of smaller-scale CSP in order to become competitive in areas with high utility costs.

Sopogy is the world’s first micro-concentrated solar power provider. The concept of scaled down Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) is what distinguishes MicroCSP™ from large scale CSP.  MicroCSP™ is intended to broaden the market for solar technology and applications for commercial, industrial, and utility use.

Concentrated Solar Power systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of the sun’s heat into a small beam. The concentrated heat can then used as a heat source for a conventional power plant or any heat driven process like steam generation. Sopogy utilizes concentrated solar power in the form of a parabolic trough to create solar solutions that improve the quality of life and simplify the solar power business to efficiently address the 100kW-50MW gap that PV and large Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) companies cannot accommodate.

Sopogy’s highly differentiated approach to solar energy brings solar solutions to all energy users in a modular, rugged, concentrating solar thermal system.

Sopogy is uniquely positioned with scalable solutions to quickly produce power.

Sopogy invented a new way to take proven CSP systems and reduce the product size to be appropriate for Hawaii. This includes redesigning the space-frame so the collector can withstand Hawaii’s tropical storms and rains, changing the metals to survive the salty and volcanic atmosphere, and using local contractors to bring green-collar jobs to Hawaii while giving the systems reliability.

The company also developed a proprietary manufacturing and assembly process to make the deployment of solar thermal systems internationally inexpensive and more efficient.

“Sopogy has incorporated our unique frame, ready-to-assemble manufacturing, and automated controls into a new compact product designed for rooftop installation.  This brings concentrating solar power to the commercial and industrial facility in a cost effective, space efficient, and contractor friendly solution.  All combined, our customers receive the fastest paybacks available in solar, helping them save money and fight global warming,” said Darren T. Kimura, President and CEO, Sopogy, Inc. 

Sopogy’s key products are the SopoNova™, SopoFlare™, and SopoLite™. The SopoNova™ is a larger ground-mounted solar collector used to create electricity, or any of the other applications listed above. The SopoFlare™ is a smaller rooftop product designed for generating air conditioning or producing drinking water from seawater. SopoLite™ is a fully functional mobile lab unit used to gather data at any given location and evaluate a project site’s potential. Independent energy analysts have observed the MicroCSP™ market as being over a $20 billion dollar industry.

The actions of the company have not gone unnoticed.  Sopogy’s activities have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, BBC, National Public Radio, and in China, Singapore, Spain, Australia and Japan.  Some of the headlines include: “Sopogy™’s MicroCSP™ technologies are the next CFL” and “If large solar farms are the mainframe, Sopogy is making the personal computer.”

Sopogy’s collector SopoNova™ was recognized by Plant Engineering as the 2008 Product of the Year Gold Award, a win over companies like Mercedes-Benz and Siemens. National Society of Professional Engineers awarded Sopogy’s SopoNova4.0TM New Product Award for 2008.

Recently, Sopogy introduced SopoFlare™ the newest MicroCSP™ product in the world of Concentrating Solar Power solutions at Solar Power International 2009 in Anaheim, the largest solar conference and expo in the U.S. SopoFlare™ is the first commercially available Concentrating Solar Power technology designed specifically for rooftop installations with a unique, easy mounting and fastening system. The system easily retrofits into existing facilities, reducing natural gas consumption, giving users an estimated 3-year payback on installation.

Locally, Sopogy has been integral in creating green jobs in Hawaii, encouraging the growth of the technology industry in our State, promoting economic diversification, and attracting foreign and mainland investors.  Sopogy’s homegrown Hawaiian technology will help us become independent from foreign oil.  We have the intelligence here in Hawaii to make us a beacon for the rest of the world when it comes to clean and green power.

Sopogy understands that the community is a part of our company growth and we have been working hard in giving back as volunteers in community service events.  In 2009 Sopogy supported the Aloha United Way, Ma’o Farms, Hawaii Humane Society, the Food Kitchen for Homeless, Keep America Beautiful clean-up, Alzheimer’s Association, and helped organize a toy drive for Institute for Human Services Women’s Shelter. In addition, company executives have donated over 50 hours to educate the public through educational outreach.

Sopogy’s Van Matsushige Promoted to Vice President of Sales

December 16, 2009

December 16, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Ann Fitzgerald – Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator
Email: afitzgerald@sopogy.org
Phone: (808) 237-2422

Honolulu, HI – Sopogy, Inc. has promoted Van Matsushige to Vice President of sales effective immediately. Matsushige has more than 15 years of general management and sales management experience serving in leadership roles for small, entrepreneurial and large organizations throughout the United States and Asia. Since joining the company in March 2008, Van has serviced the Asia-Pacific markets as Market Manager.

Darren T. Kimura, Sopogy’s president and chief executive officer, said, “Van’s diverse experiences help Sopogy position our solar collector sales in applications including power generation, air conditioning or process heat sectors across the growing energy market.”

Prior to joining Sopogy, Matsushige was the General Manager at Energy Industries Corporation a national energy services company.

He is a graduate from the University of Hawaii at Manoa and earned his degree in Asian Studies.

About Sopogy, Inc.
Established in 2002, Sopogy specializes in designing, developing, manufacturing and selling 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 inaugurates the Worlds first MicroCSP solar thermal plant

December 10, 2009

December 10, 2009

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Ann Fitzgerald – Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator
afitzgerald@sopogy.org
808-237-2422

Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii, Kona, HI – Sopogy, Inc. inaugurated the World’s first MicroCSP Solar Thermal Plant today at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii.

The 2 Megawatt thermal energy project which spans across 3.8 acres in the hot Kona desert utilizes 1,000 Sopogy proprietary MicroCSP solar panels.  Through the use of mirrors and optics and an integrated sun tracker, these panels achieve higher efficiencies than conventional solar panels.  The system also uses a unique thermal energy storage buffer that allows energy to be produced during cloudy periods and to shift energy produced from the day to evening periods.

The project name: “Holaniku at Keahole Point” comes from the Hawaiian term for a location that has everything required for self-sufficiency.

“MicroCSP is an achievement in rugged, modular and cost effective solar thermal technology.” According to Darren T. Kimura, President and CEO of Sopogy, Inc., “The completion and demonstration of this 2 megawatt solar thermal project is an important first step in bringing the solution to the World.”

With the completion of Holaniku, Sopogy now has 8 solar thermal energy facilities operating around the world. Sopogy’s MicroCSP technologies are being used in such diverse applications including process heat, solar air conditioning, roof top deployment and now power generation.

With the initialization of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative, the state has become a magnet for renewable energy project development.  Sopogy and its local solar project development partner Keahole Solar Power have a goal to bring 30 megawatts of MicroCSP power to the state by 2015.

About Sopogy
Founded in 2002, Sopogy specializes in MicroCSP solar technologies that bring the economics of large solar energy systems to the industrial, commercial and utility sectors in a smaller, robust and more cost effective package. Sopogy’s goal is to create solar solutions that improve the quality of life and simplify the solar power business. Please visit www.sopogy.org for more information.

Sopogy_Field

Holaniku at Keahole Point solar field - Copyright Sopogy and Keahole Solar Power

Sopogy_Storage

Thermal energy storage - Holaniku at Keahole Point - Copyright Sopogy and Keahole Solar Power

‘I’ll follow the sun’: Sopogy’s version of Google Maps to maximize sun’s energy

December 1, 2009

dailyfinance

 

 

Alex Salkever

Dec 1st 2009

When Sopogy CEO Darren Kimura told me about his new portable power unit called SopoLite, I was intrigued. This 90-pound invention is a pint-sized version of the parabolic trough reflectors that Sopogy uses to collect solar thermal energy. From what I can tell, this is among the first instances of concentrated solar thermal power used as a portable power solution. Kimura, a cleantech exec I’ve known for a while, also told me the product could be used to desalinate water in disaster zones.

But the unit’s most interesting facet is its original purpose — collecting data on the solar power potential of wherever its located. Kimura plans to park these puppies all over the country and build out a map of the potential availability of thermal solar energy, or the energy derived from the sun’s heat. Such a map will make it much easier to determine the true thermal solar power potential of any given location without having to deploy sensors and testing gear.

This could prove to be a boon to the still nascent rooftop and commercial solar thermal power segment. Sopogy and another company, Chromasun, both have products in this area, which is expected to boom as more property owners and large chains roll out more comprehensive energy plans. Witness Chipotle Grill’s big rooftop photovoltaic announcement.

Solar thermal power is particularly promising for several reasons (that I also blogged about here). First, it is more efficient in terms of energy conversion than most photovoltaic power systems. This is mostly physics. Converting photons into electrons via a photovoltaic system is less efficient than converting heat into steam, a transition that requires very little intermediation other than a mirror. This steam drives a turbine-powered generator. Steam turbines are a very well known and well-developed technology.

Second, solar thermal power can also be used to provide what is called process heat. This can be either heat for industrial processes or hot water for industries such as laundries, chemical plants or food production facilities — all of which are huge consumers of energy.

Third, solar thermal can be used to power air conditioning units by making it easier for those units to condense liquids that evaporate as part of the cooling process. In the west, the fact that air conditioning kicks in on a mass scale in the afternoon is a prime contributor to brown-outs.

Figuring out how well solar thermal power works in any given location, however, is somewhat tricky. Micro-weather patterns are very important for solar thermal as clouds can really put a drag on thermal heat collection. Winds and thermal patterns can also reduce solar collection possibilities.

That’s where Kimura hopes to insert SopoLite, and in the process turn the unit (which can be towed behind a trailer) into a data-collection initiative similar in nature to those funny Google cars you see driving around with spinning cameras mounted on their roofs.

Granted, SopoLite needs to be parked for a while to grab proper solar data, so Kimura will not get Google-like coverage. But over time, SopoLite units parked in enough locations could make a major contribution by really giving solar project developers a good idea of what the Sun’s true thermal power is for a given area.

Kimura says the Department of Defense and Federal Emergency Management Agency are very interested in buying SopoLite units to use in disaster areas. SopoLite portable units can generate 2 kilowatts per hour of power. The military, in particular, is looking for ways to power up in remote locations without hauling in liquid fuels to run generators. It’s way too early to see whether this will take off, but it’s a fascinating idea in a small package.

Alex Salkever is Senior Writer at AOL Daily Finance covering technology and greentech. Follow him on twitter @alexsalkever, read his articles, or email him at alex@dailyfinance.com.

Sopogy debuts the World’s first Portable Concentrating Solar Power System called “SopoLite” at Maui Ocean Center

November 22, 2009

November 21, 2009
SOPOGY PRESS RELEASE

Contact: Ann Fitzgerald – Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator
afitzgerald@sopogy.org
808-237-2422

Maalaea, Maui – Sopogy, Inc. introduced the SopoLite™ a mobile concentrating solar system on Green Technology Education Day, November 21, 2009 at the Maui Ocean Center. Key Sopogy and Maui Ocean Center representatives were present to answer questions and discussed a sustainable future for Hawaii.

SopoLite™ is a fully functional mobile concentrating solar power unit used to collect solar radiation and weather data. The Sopolite is also used to generate portable energy for applications including power, air conditioning or desalination taking sea water and making it potable.

The name SopoLite™ comes from the term Satellite as the device is designed to be a stand-alone instrument. Sopogy is deploying similar SopoLite’s across the US and around the World in an effort to collect relevant solar data useful for evaluating locations across the globe to determine the quality of their solar resources. In addition customers are purchasing SopoLites for their portable renewable energy needs including disaster recovery, portable green events and various agriculture applications.

The core technology features a miniature version of Sopogy’s award winning parabolic trough solar collector, SopoNova™. Various sensors on the SopoLite™ are used to measure temperature gains, flow velocities, solar irradiance, wind speed, rainfall, ambient temperatures and thermal performance of the collector.

The information is transmitted back to Sopogy Corporate Headquarters located in Honolulu, Hawaii where a team of engineers correlate the solar conditions with modeled data to ensure project viability. Maui Ocean Center was selected as the host for SopoLite™ because of its central location on the Island of Maui and their demonstration of leadership and commitment to environmental conservation in the community. The Center is dedicated to educating the public about the importance of preserving Hawaii’s marine life and actively supports community renewable energy efforts. Maui Ocean Center’s offer to host SopoLite™ represents their continuing dedication and efforts to promote a sustainable future for our State. The SopoLite™ will be display until early next year.

About Sopogy
Founded in 2002, Sopogy specializes in MicroCSP™ solar technologies that bring the economics of large solar energy systems to the industrial, commercial and utility sectors in a smaller, robust and more cost effective package. Sopogy’s goal is to create solar solutions that improve the quality of life and simplify the solar power business. Please
visit www.sopogy.org for more information.

About Maui Ocean Center
The Maui Ocean Center, operating since 1998, is the only facility in the world dedicated to fostering understanding, wonder and respect for Hawaii’s marine life. Here, visitors can see spectacular live coral displays (the largest collection in the nation), enjoy playful displays of Hawaii’s beloved green sea turtles, marvel at close encounters with sharks, rays and more – while learning about Hawaii’s natural history and cultural heritage. Dedicated to perpetuating the island’s host culture, Maui Ocean Center’s exhibits and activities also showcase the language, myths and history of the Hawaiian Islands in an entertaining and educational format. For more information, please visit, http://www.mauioceancenter.com.

SopoLite-Web

Click image to download SopoLite data sheet

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Sopogy Receives Platts 2009 Global Energy Award of Excellence

November 21, 2009

platts_2009

Sopogy is a finalist for Platts 2009 Global Energy Award and receives Award of Excellence.

Sustainable Technology Innovation of the Year
Abengoa Solar eSolar, Inc. Republic Services, Inc./HDR, Inc. Ice Energy InEnTec LLC Public Service Enterprise Group (PSEG) RSI Silicon Shell Global Solutions Sopogy, Inc. Tessera Solar/Stirling Energy Systems Total TURBINA IPD Ltd. Wade Adams Group

Sopogy Releases the World’s First Commercially Available Rooftop MicroCSP System

October 27, 2009

Sopogy® New “SopoFlare™” brings Concentrating Solar Power to the rooftop market

Anaheim, CA – October 15, 2009 – Sopogy, Inc. (www.sopogy.org) has just introduced SopoFlare the newest MicroCSP™ product in the world of Concentrating Solar Power solutions at Solar Power International 2009 in Anaheim.

SopoFlare is the first commercially available Concentrating Solar Power technology designed specifically for rooftop installations with a unique, easy mounting and fastening system. The technology is more robust than PV or CPV as SopoFlare is used to create steam, solar thermal air conditioning, drying, dehumidification, desalination, hot water. In addition SopoFlare utilizes Sopogy’s proprietary integrated tracker and storage solutions and is priced at 30% cheaper than competing rooftop solar technologies. The system easily retrofits into existing facility reducing Natural Gas consumption giving users an estimated 3 year payback on installation.

SopoFlare combines the revolutionary features and applications of Sopogy’s award winning SopoNova™ 4.0 concentrating solar thermal collector, in a smaller, lightweight, environmentally rugged collector. SopoFlare’s compact design at 8 feet long by 2.5 feet wide is perfect for quick and easy installation by local HVAC and Plumbing professionals.

“Sopogy has incorporated our unique frame, ready-to-assemble manufacturing and automated controls into a new compact product designed for rooftop installation. This brings concentrating solar power to the commercial and industrial facility in a cost effective, space efficient and contractor friendly solution. All combined our customers receive the fastest paybacks available in solar helping them save money and fight global warming” – Darren T. Kimura, President and CEO, Sopogy, Inc.

About Sopogy
Sopogy specializes in MicroCSP solar technologies that bring the economics of large solar energy systems to the industrial, commercial and utility sectors in a smaller, robust and more cost effective package. Sopogy’s goal is to create solar solutions that improve the quality of life and simplify the solar power business. Please visit www.sopogy.org for more information.

About Solar Power International
Solar Power International is the largest solar conference and expo in the US. The conference attracts a wide range of professionals, policymakers, investors, and more, and even educates consumers through a one-night public opening of the expo hall. Sopogy will be exhibiting every day of the conference, which runs from October 27 to October 29. Please visit http://www.solarpowerinternational.com for more details.

Press Contact
Ann Fitzgerald
Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator
Sopogy, Inc.
afitzgerald@sopogy.org

SopoFlare is the World's first commercially available MicroCSP collector designed for rootops

SopoFlare is the World's first commercially available MicroCSP collector designed for rootops

President and CEO of Sopogy receives the Clean Energy Honua Award

October 24, 2009

October 23, 2009

SOPOGY PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Contact: Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator
media@sopogy.org
808-833-4747

SUBJECT: Darren T. Kimura, President and CEO of Sopogy and founder and Chairman of Energy Industries receives the 2009 Honua Award by the Blue Planet Foundation

Waikiki, HI — At the Waikiki Green Aloha Concert before an estimated crowd of 500, Sopogy founder, President, Chief Executive Officer and Energy Industries Founder and Chairman of the Board Darren T. Kimura has just been awarded the Honua Award by the Blue Planet Foundation.

Over his 17 year career Darren’s companies have helped move Hawaii towards a clean energy future. Energy Industries has introduced and installed numerous clean energy technologies saving kilowatt hours and reducing PCBs and Mercury through recycling programs. Sopogy is developing the next generation of high efficiency solar panels and energy storage technologies for Hawaii and the World. Keahole Solar Power developed and constructed a 2 megawatt solar thermal project and is developing an additional 30 megawatts of fossil fuel free power. Together his companies employ and support hundreds of green collar jobs and kept over $500 million in Hawaiis local economy through energy savings. In addition his work has off-set over 2 million metric tons of CO2 emissions which is the equivalent of reducing 27,000 tankers of gasoline or eliminating the consumption of 4.6 million barrels of oil.

“This Award is symbolic of the opportunities that exist here in Hawaii” said Darren T. Kimura. “We’ve accomplished a lot over the past 17 years but we/ve still got so much more to do and we struggle to save our planet and our species.”

The Honua (“Earth”) Award is given annually to recognize individuals or organizations who have made significant contributions to moving Hawaii along the path towards a clean sustainable energy future. Their achievements affecting our energy future could be economic, social/cultural, environmental, or some combination. The first Honua Award was presented in 2008 to Maurice Kaya, the former Hawaii state energy office administrator.

The selection committee for the Honua Award is the Blue Planet Foundation Board of Directors:
· Henk Rogers, software entrepreneur and founder of the Blue Planet Foundation;
· Akemi Rogers, owner of Fishcake and co-founder of Blue Lava Technologies;
· Ben Cayetano, former Governor of the State of Hawai„i;
· Prof. Peter Crouch, Dean of the College of Engineering at UH Manoa;
· Stanley Hong, Esq., an attorney and leader in business, civic and community affairs;
· Elizabeth Kapu’uwailani Lindsey, Ph.D., an award-winning filmmaker and anthropologist;
· Bob Lloyd, Chairman of the V Foundation for Cancer Research;
· David Williams, retired Senior Vice President of the Whirlpool Corporation; and
· Prof. Maxine Burkett, Director of the Center for Island Climate Adaptation and Policy.

ABOUT BLUE PLANET FOUNDATION
Blue Planet Foundation is a local non-profit committed to ending the use of carbon based fuels on Earth by making Hawaii a global leader for energy independence within a decade. For more information on Blue Planet Foundation Hawaii

A123′s IPO Already Bringing Hope to Other Cleantech Startups

September 24, 2009

A123′s IPO Already Bringing Hope to Other Cleantech Startups

By Chris Morrison | Sep 24, 2009

Hours ahead of battery maker A123 Systems‘ initial public offering, optimism is already running high that the company will crack open a stagnant market and convince investors that they should also buy into other stock offerings.

A123 made an 11th-hour call yesterday to raise the price its opening price by 23 percent, to a range of $10 to $11.50. If the company gets traction it will bring in about $250 million. That’s not bad, for a firm that lost $40.7 million in the first half of the year. Its revenue was only slightly higher, at $42.9 million.

But A123 is well positioned. It started off selling batteries into the power tool market. That led to electric cars — which are not yet common on the road, by any means. The expectation is that electric vehicles will multiply rapidly in coming years; even if they don’t, A123 is also starting to make batteries for utilities, to store excess capacity from solar or wind power farms.

Battery technology also takes a long time to perfect, meaning newer competitors could take years to catch up to A123, offering some stability. So as startups go, it’s a good company to attract attention from the stock markets during a protracted downturn. The question is whether others can follow in A123’s footsteps.

I’d say “yes”, and here’s why: Investors seem to be wising up to what actually works in cleantech. When A123 first filed for an IPO last year, it was in a group of other renewable energy companies, including Imperium Renewables, a biodiesel maker. That company burned through a massive amount of cash very quickly, and is now in no position to have an IPO, or do much of anything else.

Ditto for dozens of other biofuel companies, including corn ethanol busts that did go public, like Verasun and Pacific Ethanol. But, as with the internet boom, all this simply meant that investors were still getting their bearings. It wasn’t yet evident which areas of cleantech would make for the best bets.

Now the picture is becoming clearer, and companies like A123 are offering growth prospects that are based on more than just hype.

There’s also a line of other companies that have met with some success, and are just waiting for the chance to go public. There are some obvious candidates here. Tesla Motors, the electric car maker, is working on its second model and would probably be thrilled to go public. Silver Spring Networks, a smart grid equipment maker, has inked dozens of deals, and will need cash to expand.

First Wind, a wind developer that filed around the same time last year as A123, is probably still waiting for its chance. And then there are the solar companies who have more or less proven their technology and already drawn in lots of private financing: Solyndra, Nanosolar, BrightSource and some smaller ones like Sopogy.

It takes a while to complete an IPO application, but chances are some of the above (and some not mentioned) are already hard at work. Others will probably join in once the results from A123 come back. Next year will be one to watch.

Original Story at: Bnet.Com

Solar Air Conditioning Explained

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

LA Times Features Sopogy's SopoCool Air Conditioning Solution

Solar Air Conditioning explained in graphic produced by the LA Times

LA Times – Using solar heat to power air conditioning

August 20, 2009

ENERGY
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.

nathan.olivarezgiles@ latimes.com

Sopogy Named to the Always On Global 250 List

August 12, 2009

image003

The AO Global 250 represents the best of emerging innovators and disrupters from all the technology sectors we cover, and therefore is our most distinguished annual competition.

Greentech

Category Winner
Company Name: BrightSource Energy
URL: www.brightsourceenergy.com
Headquarters: Oakland, CA
CEO: John M. Woolard
Year Founded: 2004
Employees: > 100 (worldwide)
Investors Include: Google Ventures, VantagePoint Venture Partners, Statoil Hydro Venture, Black River, DBL Investors, Draper Fisher Jurvetson, Chevron Technology Ventures, Morgan Stanley, BP Alternative Energy

Abound Solar
AbTech Industries
Amyris Biotechnologies
Aptera Motors
Bridgelux
Bright Automotive
Calera
EcoMotors
Evolutionary Genomics
GreatPoint Energy
HID Laboratories
Hycrete
Ice Energy
Miles Electric Vehicles
NanoH2O
Premium Power
Range Fuels
Segetis
Serious Materials
Silver Spring Networks
SmartSynch
Solyndra
Sopogy
Synthetic Genomics
Tendril
TerraPower
Tesla Motors
Wilson TurboPower
ZeaChem