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 jagsalud@isdi-hi.com

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

Email: media@sopogy.org

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 www.sopogy.org 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.

nkalani@bizjournals.com | 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

View Larger

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.

cwoolard@bizjournals.com | 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 News.com
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 Salesforce.com; 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 salesforce.com 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 www.sopogy.org

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. http://www.sopogy.org

Sopogy to Test Solar Power Technology in North Idaho

August 21, 2007
Sopogy Press Release


Date: August 21, 2007

Subject: Sopogy

Contact: Jim Maskrey, Vice President of Business Development

Tel: (808) 457-5703

email: jmaskrey@sopogy.org

Sopogy to Test Solar Power Technology in North Idaho

August 21, 2007

Spokane, Wash. – Sopogy, Inc. of Honolulu, Hawaii, will deploy its concentrating solar power (CSP) technology at the Avista Clean Energy Test Site located in Rathdrum, Idaho. The trial is to demonstrate how Sopogy’s system will perform in a northern climate, generating power on a utility grid scale.

Avista, a Spokane based electric and natural gas utility company, created the Clean Energy Test Site to allow for deployment and testing of emerging renewable energy technologies. Ultimately the applications could provide additional renewable energy for utility customers.

Sopogy’s MicroCSPTM is designed to provide thermal energy as process heat, generate electricity, or provide air conditioning in areas with the right solar conditions. Many areas of the Northwest have long days and clear summer skies and a summer daytime peaking load, an ideal condition for MicroCSPTM technologies.

“This is an exciting step toward helping to accelerate distributed generation and wider use of renewable energy. Sopogy, Inc. is proud to be bringing the proven economics of Concentrated Solar Power to the Pacific Northwest” said Darren T. Kimura, president and CEO of Sopogy, Inc.

“Avista welcomes Sopogy to the Clean Energy Test Site,” said Roger Woodworth, Avista vice president for Sustainable Energy Solutions. “We are looking forward to working with them to prove out the merits of this technology, both on our system and in our region.”

At full deployment Sopogy plans to produce up to 50 kilowatts of electric power that will be integrated onto the Avista grid. The highest output of the Sopogy systems is expected to coincide with the peak demands of the utility’s high summer daytime load.

The initial phase of the Sopogy test deployment will begin in mid-September, with full deployment targeted for the summer of 2008.

Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) has been reliably used in the U.S. for over 30 years. These systems have been engineered for desert locations covering hundreds of acres and producing power very cost effectively. Sopogy’s technology shrinks desert CSP bringing this renewable energy opportunity to a commercial, industrial or on-site power application.

(Avista Vice President Roger Woodworth and Sopogy President Darren T. Kimura)

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 MicroCSPTM technology, please visit www.sopogy.org

Sopogy to build Mainland test facility

August 19, 2007

Pacific Business News (Honolulu) – 3:51 PM HAST Friday, August 17, 2007

Sopogy Inc., a Honolulu-based solar technology company, will build a 50-kilowatt demonstration facility at the green energy testing site of a Spokane, Wash.-based utility.

Darren Kimura, president and chief executive officer of Sopogy, said the company will sign a contract with Avista Utilities on Monday that will see the installation of an undisclosed number of solar collectors begin in about a month.

Kimura did not describe details of the deal.

Sopogy also plans to build a one-megawatt demonstration of its concentrated solar technology on the Big Island. The differences between the two locations will provide insights into how the technology works at varying temperatures, Kimura said.

“We know the technology is solid, but we don’t know how it will work in winter,” he said. “That’s the challenge for solar technology.”

Avista serves more than 300,000 electric customers in three western states and is working to incorporate renewable energy sources into its portfolio.

12 People with 12 Big Ideas

August 17, 2007

Daren Kimura
President, CEO and Chairman of Sopogy Inc.

There is no one technology that will solve all that ails us.

But if we take wind and combine it with photovoltaic and hydro-generation, and combine that with traditional generation, now you have gotten ourselves into a situation where the cost of generation goes down because we are no longer tied to fossil fuels and we have a reduction in greenhouse gases.

There are things in place to get us there. The state has enacted what’s called a Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), which put a mandate on the utilities that a percentage of their generation come from renewable resources Ð 20 percent by 2020 is the goal. The challenge is that our RPS is not defined as in other states. For instance, most utilities give their consumers the opportunity to pay a penny or two more to buy their power from green energy sources. That penny or two more then goes back to the green energy project developer to help incentivize the development and expansion of his project. That option is not available here yet. Because it all starts with money. Once you have the capital available, anything is possible. You can build a large wind farm. You can build solar farm.

It also takes having the early adopters come into the market and take the risk and demonstrate the model. The entrepreneurs. And having some of the more prominent leaders do something about it. When you have one or two successful demonstrations of how the model works, it is easy for everyone to say, “Hey these guys did it, let’s do it.” We also need public awareness, because the public can apply pressure to the government, the utilities and the Public Utilities Commission.

If we can figure out a way to insulate ourselves and lower energy costs, we stand a better chance as a society of giving people a better way of life. Maybe people can cut back on that second job and spend more time with their kids. This is the kind of thing that drives me. ÐAs told to SR

Sopogy to work with Avista on clean energy

August 17, 2007

A Honolulu-based solar-energy firm is expected to be the second tenant at Avista Utilities’ test bed for clean energy sources.

Sopogy Inc. plans to use the Rathdrum facility to assess its concentrated solar power technology on the mainland, said Jim Maskrey, vice president of business development and sales.

“We really want to demonstrate the favorability of the area for concentrating solar,” Maskrey said.

Like some other concentrated solar systems, two-year-old Sopogy’s technology uses troughs outfitted with highly polished mirrors to focus sunlight on tubes containing a fluid, heating it for use in a process to create steam-generated electricity. Such systems traditionally have been large and set in desert environments, Maskrey said, but Sopogy claims its SopoNova product is smaller and more rugged.

And the system could be set up to store energy as heat for use at peak times or when the sun isn’t shining, he said.

Sopogy initially will test the tracking system, but a later phase should generate a maximum of about 50 kilowatts of power at any given time, he said. The company hopes to break ground in about a month.

Avista and Sopogy should sign an agreement Monday, said Hugh Imhof, utility spokesman.

Avista and other utilities are feeling the squeeze of recent state renewable-energy mandates. A voter initiative passed last year requires Avista to use 3 percent renewable by 2012 and 15 percent by 2020. About two dozen other states, including Hawaii, had similar requirements as of this month, according to the Pew Center on Global Climate Change.

In June, San Francisco-based startup GreenVolts Inc. unveiled plans to install a roughly 2.4-kilowatt sun-tracking solar array at the site. GreenVolts’ system, made by Ecolite Manufacturing Co. of Spokane Valley, uses photovoltaic cells to turn sunlight into electricity.

While the two types of concentrated solar may have different applications, Maskrey said, the cost of Sopogy’s system should be lower than photovoltaic. He declined to give specific price information.

“There is going to be a little bit of overlap, but there’s going to be a lot more differentiation between us where the market will adapt to what it is we’re delivering,” he said.

The Sopogy system, which will be aligned north-south and pivot to track the sun, may require six or seven acres per megawatt of power generated, Maskrey said. It also can be used for agricultural drying, air conditioning and desalinization, he said.

Heat-transfer oil piped through the system could be heated to 250 to 500 degrees Fahrenheit, Maskrey said.

Sopogy is a spinoff of Energy Laboratories, a private energy-concept incubator in Hawaii. The firm has received about $3 million in a round of venture capital funding and has 11 full-time employees, Maskrey said.

The state of Hawaii this summer approved Sopogy for $10 million in revenue bonds to help it design, build and operate a large-scale solar farm there.

Hard work pays off

August 9, 2007

Thursday, August 9, 2007 11:03 AM HST

CEO of renewable energy firm found his calling at an early age

by Bret Yager
Tribune-Herald Staff Writer

Darren Kimura learned early to use his imagination.

Growing up in Hilo, the emerging renewable energy entrepreneur didn’t have much entertainment to distract him.

“A lot of successful business people come from Hilo,” he said. “The key about Hilo is you go out and make something happen.”

Kimura, 32, is president, CEO and chairman of Sopogy Inc., which the state in June approved for $10 million in special purpose revenue bonds for a new solar farm power plant in West Hawaii.

Kimura has been passionate about renewable energy since his teen and college years. He spent that time founding two energy and communication companies and teaching computers to Waiakea Intermediate School faculty.

And Kimura intends, in a modest way, to take over the world, applying the “make it happen” philosophy to a 15-hour work day that centers entirely around renewable energy, infants and home life.

He used to surf at Honolii. Surfing was one of the first things to go. He doesn’t watch TV or go out to movies anymore.

“It comes down to priorities,” he said. “Always the most important thing to me has been my family, and business. Anything that doesn’t fit into that is no longer around.”


Kimura founded Energy Industries when he was 19. Fourteen years later, the energy solutions company is on the cutting edge of renewable energy research and engineering, with 12 offices and more than 200 employees in the U.S., Guam and Hong Kong.

Kimura founded Energy Laboratories in 2000 to expand and diversify Energy Industries. He describes the company as a place where energy innovations can incubate until they are ready for the market. The company has more than 20 such concepts in incubation and has turned nine others into multi-million dollar companies geared at solving energy problems.

The top earner garners $50 million in annual revenue. All of the companies started in Hawaii.

Kimura attended Waiakea High, the University of Hawaii at Manoa, where he studied business, and Portland State University, where he studied electrical engineering. He started Energy Industries here in Hilo while on summer break from Manoa.

From there, Kimura’s resume of start-ups begins to resemble that of a tycoon. In 1996, he created Energy Conservation in Hawaii; in 1998, Pacific Energy Services; in 2000, eCONTROLS; in 2001, EnergySmart; in 2003, Lighting and Electrical Company; in 2004, Facility Solutions. In 2006, he acquired Quantum Lighting and Quantum Energy.

Kimura lives on Oahu now, but both he and his wife, Kelly, are from Hilo. Kimura attended Waiakea Intermediate School, where he was a computer geek. He remembers enjoying the contact with nature: Camping, hiking, fishing and scouting. He wasn’t an exceptional student, he says. He attributes his success to what he calls “laser beam focus.”

After all, you have to eat your Wheaties if you want to wean a state of its dependency on foreign oil. Kimura sees that as a personal quest.

“I want energy independence for Hawaii,” Kimura said. “It’s a big task, and I want to do it in my generation. We’re 89 percent dependent on foreign oil.”

Sopogy Inc. today offers new concentrated solar power collectors to generate electricity and air conditioning, industrial steam and agricultural drying, with the potential for creating drinking water from evaporated sea water along the way. Kimura is still working to shrink the technology down to where it can be used by individual households.

“The markets we can go after now are the larger businesses and utilities,” he said.

Kimura’s new 3,000-reflector solar farm, under the name Keahole Solar Power, will be built on six acres at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in Kona. Capable of producing a megawatt of electricity and powering 500 homes, the $8 million project will likely be online by July 2008, Kimura said. The farm will be able to produce electricity about 25 percent more cheaply than conventional means, he said.

Keahole Solar Power is in the design phase, about a month away from breaking ground if its permits come through.

“The good thing about solar is it’s typically a lot faster to construct; you’re dealing with traditional metal, glass and concrete, and you’re not dealing with rare or toxic materials,” Kimura said. “This is a good project and we want it to happen as soon as possible.”

In addressing climate change, energy security and sustainability, Kimura can’t say enough about solar. Its production cycle meshes perfectly with the human use cycle, he says, and on the sunny west side of the island, solar is very cost effective, even if it’s less so in the rainy and cloudy east side climate.

Kimura said the Big Island’s efforts at geothermal and wind-powered ventures are a step in the right direction. But with fossil fuels dwindling and global warming looming, renewable energy is not just an option, but a growing imperative to Kimura.

“Renewable energy is good for the environment, the pocketbook and society,” he said. “These are the kinds of things we have to do now. The incentives are there. There is no better time to go green.”

Bret Yager can be reached at byager@hawaiitribune-herald.com

Big Island Leads in Renewable Energy Use

August 8, 2007

The Big Island is blessed with many renewable energy resources—solar, geothermal, wind, biomass, and run-of-the-river hydro. About 1/3 of the electricity generated on the Big Island is produced from renewable energy resources. In fact HELCO, as a stand-alone utility, is a world leader for the amount and diversity of renewable energy used to generate electricity, as well as for the proportion of intermittent renewable energy resources being used.

Intermittent sources of electricity rely on nonconstant sources of power, such as wind, stream flows, and sunshine. HELCO has committed to increasing the amount of renewable resources, both intermittent and firm, used to generate electricity and is aggressively working to mitigate potential system reliability impacts of intermittent renewable energy resources.

Independent power producers in Hawaii can take advantage of beneficial financing options and generous federal and state energy tax credits that may not be available to a public utility like HELCO. However, HELCO continues to support the development of renewable energy by purchasing renewable energy from the independent power producers.

Additionally, HELCO supports the installation of customer-sited renewable energy systems under the state’s net energy metering
legislation, which allows excess power generated by customers from renewable energy sources to be fed into the power grid.
Current independent power producers include: Puna Geothermal Venture, with 30 megawatts (MW) of geothermal power; Hawi Renewable Development, with 10.6 MW of wind power; Pakini Nui, with 20.5 MW of wind power; and Wailuku Hydro, with 12.1 MW of hydropower; along with other smaller producers.

Looking forward, independent power producer Sopogy, Inc. is planning to construct a 3.5-MW concentrating solar energy farm.
With so many renewable energy options available, we at HELCO can foresee no circumstance under which we would seek to construct a new fossil fuel plant.

View full story: helco_consumer_lines_aug07.pdf

Making technology more practical attracts investors

August 4, 2007


Pacific Business News (Honolulu) – August 3, 2007

Tina Yuen, PBN

View Larger

The aluminum trough-shaped solar collectors developed in the warehouse of Honolulu-based Sopogy Inc. do not represent the next revolution in solar energy generation.  The company doesn’t revolt. It specializes in evolution, fashioning design improvements that increase the practicality of proven technology.  “We try to go after markets that already exist, providing near-term, modest solutions,” said Darren Kimura, president and CEO of the company he founded in 2006.

Next-generation technology

Sopogy builds next-generation parabolic reflectors that concentrate solar power, maximizing energy output from a low-cost, durable system that can be set up on or off the power grid.  The strategy has earned Sopogy the attention of two local venture capital groups, as well as the state, which this year made available up to $10 million in special-purpose revenue bonds to finance a one-megawatt power plant to be connected to the Big Island grid.  “Darren’s company is taking technology that has been proven to work in other areas, but has not been fine-tuned in Hawaii,” said state Sen. Carol Fukunaga, D-Makiki-Tantalus-Punchbowl, who proposed the legislation to provide the revenue bonds. “He has been very innovative in his approach.”

The 3,000-reflector plant will be built on six acres of lava rock at the Big Island’s Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority for an estimated $8 million and run by a newly formed Kimura company, Keahole Solar Power.  “Our goal is to use this as a showcase,” Kimura said. “We’re a Hawaii-based company, but our market is the world.”

Kimura isn’t ready to put a price tag on his units yet, but said Sopogy’s focus has been to build a system that costs about half as much as a comparable photovoltaic system, with a return on investment in three to five years.  Sopogy’s solar units differ from the more widespread, flat-paneled photovoltaic systems seen on residential and commercial rooftops. The company’s researchers focus on concentrated solar power designs, models with oil- or water-filled pipe that runs through parabolic reflectors, capturing heat used to generate steam.

That concept isn’t new.

The innovation comes in the form of nanocoating that insulates the reflectors from salt damage, of axes that allow the reflectors not only to track the sun in quarter-degree increments, but also to be flipped over and protected with additional casing in a hurricane.  A California company manufactures the units from glass, aluminum and concrete — an attractive element of the project for investors.  “They figured out how to use a low-cost manufacturing process,” said Joelle Simonpietri, a partner at Kolohala Ventures, which invested in Sopogy last year.

Sopogy is working with two different commercial models — the 2.5-foot-wide SopoFlare and the 5-foot-wide SopoNova.  “We’re the only company out there that is trying to shrink these systems,” Kimura said.

Building the ranks

Over the next year, Sopogy will build its ranks from its current 11 employees, looking to grow into a 100-employee company, Kimura said. A second round of financing should bring an influx of at least $5 million, he said.

The company has an eye on going public in the next three years, he said, a move that would give it more liquidity and bolster its research and development, as well as manufacturing, efforts.  “Hawaii is really only our lab,” Kimura said. “Our market is California, Asia.”

But the entrepreneur from Hilo has no plans to see his company leave the state.  “I want to leave a legacy in Hawaii,” he said.

cwoolard@bizjournals.com | 955-8039

Mr. Jonathan Ishikawa joins Sopogy as Project & Vendor Channel Manager

August 1, 2007

Date: August 1, 2007
Subject: Mr. Jonathan Ishikawa joins Sopogy as Project & Vendor Channel Manager

Contact: Darren T. Kimura, President and CEO
Tel: ( 808 ) 216-3478
Email: dkimura@sopogy.org
Jonathan Ishikawa Joins Sopogy as Project & Vendor Channel Manager
Honolulu, HI – Sopogy, Inc. announced today that Mr. Jonathan Ishikawa has joined the company as its Project Manager & Vendor Channel Manager.  Prior to joining Sopogy he was a Project Manger and Business Development Manager at Pipeline Communications & Technology, Inc.  He holds a Bachelors of Science in Mechanical Engineering and Biomedical Engineering from Washington University ( St. Louis ) and is a current member of the Hawaii Army National Guard.
About Sopogy, Inc.
Sopogy, Inc. ( www.sopogy.org ) is a Hawaii based solar technology company founded by Energy Laboratories the “think-tech” incubator of Energy Industries.  Sopogy is a manufacturer and developer of Concentrated Solar Power ( CSP ) technologies that increase the effectiveness of solar energy. Sopogy offers a cost-effective method for producing renewable electricity, drinking water from sea water and air conditioning from the power of the sun.
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For additional information about Sopogy, Inc., please contact Darren Kimura, President & CEO at ( 808 ) 216-3478.