Sopogy » 15 /blog Sopogy News, Awards, Updates and Press Releases Tue, 19 Mar 2013 07:58:09 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Sopogy, Small Scale Solar Thermal Raising Cash /blog/2007/10/31/sopogy-small-scale-solar-thermal-raising-cash/ /blog/2007/10/31/sopogy-small-scale-solar-thermal-raising-cash/#comments Thu, 01 Nov 2007 01:49:15 +0000 admin 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.”

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Solar Thermal Plant Planned for NELHA /blog/2007/09/21/solar-thermal-plant-planned-for-nelha/ /blog/2007/09/21/solar-thermal-plant-planned-for-nelha/#comments Fri, 21 Sep 2007 20:49:39 +0000 admin PBN Sopogy Plans Power Project for NELHA

Solar, OTEC power plants planned to energize NELHA

Pacific Business News (Honolulu) – September 21, 2007

PBN file photo

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Ron Baird takes his charge seriously.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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