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Sopogy Strengthens Execution Capabilities

March 19, 2013

Management changes are focused on rapid commercialization of solar steam and process heat markets.

Belmont, CA. — March 19, 2013 – Sopogy, Inc., a concentrating solar thermal technology company, today announced that it has appointed David Fernandez as its President and Chief Operating Officer to strengthen its execution capabilities. Furthermore, the company has appointed Darren T. Kimura as Chief Global Strategist and Chief Marketing Officer.

David Fernandez will assume responsibilities for day to day activities and report to the Board of Directors. Before joining Sopogy, Mr. Fernandez was the Vice President of North American Operations at SunEdison, one of the largest solar companies in the world. Prior to joining SunEdison, he was the Senior VP of Operations for FRV, Inc. (Fotowatio Renewable Ventures), a leading global operator in photovoltaic and thermosolar energy plants. He previously served as COO with GES USA (Global Energy Services) where he worked on wind and solar renewable energy projects. Mr. Fernandez has an MBA from Instituto de Empresa, a Masters in Aeronautical Engineering from Purdue University and a BA from Western Michigan University also in Aeronautical Engineering.

“We are very pleased to have Mr. Fernandez join Sopogy as President and Chief Operating Officer. Mr. Fernandez will strengthen Sopogy’s core business. It is important that we take that step forward to achieve the great potential in our business,” said Taro Inaba, member of the Board of Directors.

“Sopogy has an exciting technology platform and I’m honored to join the team. My strong background in engineering and operations will help improve our products and the customer experience,” said David Fernandez.

Mr. Kimura, Sopogy’s founder and previously Chairman of the Board, Chief Executive Officer and President, will now be responsible for the company’s domestic and international expansion and will oversee marketing efforts.

“Darren is a world class entrepreneur. His success in raising capital, building teams and leading the company in its growth is second to none. Sopogy now needs Darren to lead us in global marketing. This role takes advantage of his skills and creates value for all shareholders. I’m confident he will take us to new heights,” said Carlos Domenech, member of the Board of Directors.

“At this stage in our growth, serving as the Company’s Chief Global Strategist and Chief Marketing Officer will enable me to develop our brand and drive our sales and commercialization efforts forward,” said Darren T. Kimura.

All appointments are effective immediately.

About Sopogy
Sopogy revolutionized solar thermal technology with MicroCSP. Developing modular collectors about one-third the size of a traditional concentrated solar power mirror, Sopogy cut the cost of solar thermal energy to a fraction of the cost. Proprietary storage units stabilize volatile energy production when cloudy and prolong production after sunset. Sopogy’s thermal energy is the fuel for stable, renewable process heat, air conditioning, and power generation. For more information please visit www.sopogy.org.

Hawaii’s solar power flare-up: Too much of a good thing?

November 20, 2012

By Kim Murphy, Los Angeles TimesNovember 17, 2012, 5:53 p.m.

Darren Kimura, chief executive of Sopogy, shows how his technology uses the Big Island’s abundant sunshine to return electricity to the power grid. Solar power is now so popular that Hawaii’s utilities worry about damage from excess electricity pumped back into their systems. (Alana Semuels / Los Angeles Times / December 21, 2009)

WAILUKU, Hawaii — On an island whose stock in trade is sun, and lots of it, Lawrence and Cindy Lee figured they’d be foolish not to join their neighbors and put a few solar panels on the roof.The Lees called one of the solar contractors racing around Hawaii these days, and put in their order. Eleven months later, in October — after endless consultations, emails and a $3,000 study required by Maui Electric Co. — they were still waiting for a permit.”Instead of it being like they want to help you get your solar system in,” Lawrence Lee said, “it’s more like they don’t want you to.”

Solar power has grown increasingly popular across the U.S. Sun Belt, but hardly anywhere has it taken hold as it has in Hawaii. Friendly tax credits, the highest average electricity rates in the nation and the most aggressive renewable energy program adopted by any state have sent homeowners scrambling to install photovoltaic systems on their roofs.

The number of solar power systems across the island state has doubled every year since 2007, with nearly 20,000 units installed. But with homeowners and businesses now producing nearly 140 megawatts of their own power — the equivalent of a medium-size power plant — and solar tax credits biting seriously into the state budget, Hawaii legislators and electrical utilities are tapping the brakes.

Solar tax credits cost the state $173.8 million this year in foregone revenue, up from $34.7 million in 2010, prompting state tax authorities to announce this month that they will temporarily cut the tax credit in half, effective Jan. 1.

Hawaiian Electric Co. on Oahu, which oversees subsidiary utilities on Maui and the Big Island, has warned that the explosion of do-it-yourself solar could threaten parts of the power grid with the possibility of power fluctuations or sporadic blackouts as the power generated by homeowners —unpredictable and subject to sudden swings — exceeded output from power plants in some areas.

So rapid is the growth that Hawaiian Electric at one point proposed a moratorium on solar installations, a plan that met with immediate outrage and was quickly withdrawn. But utilities are requiring expensive “interconnection” studies, such as the one the Lees had to do, in solar-saturated areas to analyze what impact a new unit is going to have on the utility system beforeit can connect to the grid.

“The last three months are turning into a madhouse of solar here on Oahu,” Hawaiian Electric spokesman Peter Rosegg said. “We’re doing everything we can to get in as much solar as possible, but there’s a strong sense that we’re kind of at a crossroads here in trying to deal with these issues.”

Hawaii has become a solar laboratory for the rest of the country. Many states are experiencing sun-power booms, but few have had their grids overwhelmed to the extent seen in Hawaii.

“No one knows exactly when this is going to take place, but we are approaching a red line…. We will reach a point where they will not accept any more generating capacity,” said Marco Mangelsdorf, who runs a private solar company, ProVision Solar, and teaches energy politics at the University of Hawaii in Hilo.

Historically, power is supplied to homes and businesses from big central power plants, easily controlled by engineers who dial up the turbines when demand peaks, such as on hot afternoons when customers come home and turn on air conditioners. But the push for renewable energy has introduced into the equation “nonfirm” power — electricity generated by wind, which comes and goes, or sun, which can suddenly disappear behind a cloud.

As customers generate more than they need and feed the excess back into the grid for others to use, it makes managing the system much more complex. What happens when a cloud passes over and dozens of rooftop units suddenly grind to a halt? What’s to be done on a sunny autumn day, when rooftop solar systems are producing way more power than the grid can use?

The problem is especially pronounced in Hawaii, where each island has its own isolated power grid and can’t quickly compensate with power generated elsewhere. The result, if not carefully managed, can be computer-killing power surges (in cases of excess generation), flickering lights, isolated blackouts or worse.

“It can crash the entire system,” said Robert Alm, executive vice president of Hawaiian Electric.

California, which has more than 120,000 solar energy systems online, doesn’t have Hawaii’s serious overload problems, but has recently faced its own debate over how much can be paid to solar-equipped homeowners for power they feed into the grid. The Sacramento Municipal Utility District is studying Hawaii’s operations to learn what happens when solar power inundates a power system.

“As an engineer, you always want to look at the worst-case scenario. Well, they have it,” project manager Elaine Sison-Lebrilla said.

Hawaii finds itself pushing the envelope not just because of its abundant sunshine. A bigger driver has been the state’s reliance on oil to fuel its power plants. Oil is always more expensive than natural gas, but prices shot up even higher last year when Japan’s nuclear disaster sent demand, and soon prices, skyrocketing on the Asian markets where Hawaii buys its supplies.

The state has set a goal of obtaining 40% of its power from locally generated renewable sources by 2030. Already, the Big Island has jumped ahead and is producing 44% of its power from renewable sources, and it could hit 100% by the end of the decade.

Kauai announced earlier this month that it would build its third large-scale solar plant and expected to generate half the island’s power by the sun soon. “Our understanding is that would be the highest penetration of any utility, certainly in the United States,” said Jim Kelly, spokesman for Kauai Island Utility Cooperative.

The state is studying a multibillion-dollar undersea cable that would connect outlying islands — the big generators of wind, geothermal and solar power — to Oahu, home to most of Hawaii’s population. This would not only allow them to serve as energy farms for the state, but it would also allow the kind of interconnected grid that would alleviate wind and solar variability problems.

Over the last few months, new rules have liberalized the standards for allowing solar connections, and a week ago, the Lees completed their long journey through the energy bureaucracy: They had their rooftop unit installed. They’re no longer worried about turning off the lights in empty rooms.

“I wish I hadn’t had to go through all this,” Lawrence Lee said. “But it was worth it.”

kim.murphy@latimes.com

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times

Sunlight’s heat will cool down youth center at Davis-Monthan

March 23, 2012

Michelle A. Monroe Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Saturday, March 10, 2012 12:00 am

Davis-Monthan Air Force Base will be using Arizona’s sun to cool its youth center by summer.

Sopogy Inc., a Hawaii-based energy company, is installing a new type of solar-energy system on the roof of the building that will use heat from sunlight to create chilled air.

The project is part of the military’s plan to cut installations’ energy costs.

The Department of Defense found that air conditioning accounts for 30 percent to 60 percent of its total facility energy expenditures. Officials decided that switching from fossil fuels to solar heat would help the department meet its renewable-energy targets.

Sopogy’s system uses heat from sunlight to create cool air in a process known as absorption chilling.

By May 1, there will be 72 mirrored “micro-concentrated” solar collectors, which are about 12-feet long, weigh less than 200 pounds and will provide about 66 tons of cold air, according to a Davis-Monthan spokesman.

The mirrors focus the sunlight on a pipe filled with a heat transfer fluid that runs to a solar absorption chiller, which reacts to the heat and creates cold air, said Darren Kimura, president and CEO of Sopogy.

The parabolic mirrors are motorized to track the sun’s movement, Kimura said. Most air-conditioning systems in the United States use a compressor and a refrigerant, which creates cold air but uses a large amount of electricity. Industrial absorption chillers are typically driven by natural gas or waste heat.

Kimura said Sopogy installed the first air-conditioning system using the technology in 2009 in California.

All of the materials used in the system are nonhazardous, Kimura said. The liquid that reacts with heat to make cold is lithium bromide, which is found naturally in ocean water.

“It takes the same reaction that you would find if you were on a beach on a hot day,” Kimura said. “There’s the hot sun but then that cool air, the cool breeze, that’s the same effect that the chiller has except the chiller is much more concentrated.”

Davis-Monthan will be the second military installation to use the technology. The first was Fort Bliss, near El Paso.

The company began working with NASA on the technology years ago, Kimura said, adding that the Pentagon identified Davis-Monthan as a prime site.

Sopogy’s system also will provide thermal storage and natural gas as backup for the cooling system on cloudy days.

“This gives you cold air 24 hours, seven days a week,” Kimura said, adding that the cost is less than half of the cost of electric refrigeration.

For now, the technology is only for businesses or big buildings like schools.

“We’re trying to downsize it so it can be cost-effective in your home and we’re not quite there yet,” Kimura said.

Michelle A. Monroe is a University of Arizona journalism student and a NASA Space Grant intern. Contact her at mmonroe@azstarnet.com

Read more: http://azstarnet.com/business/local/sunlight-s-heat-will-cool-down-youth-center-at-davis/article_fe6f4ec9-a41c-58d5-942b-00eeacb5ca4b.html#ixzz1py0N4uQM

Inc. Magazine: Incubation Nation – Where Great Ideas Are Born – Sopogy of Hawai

May 26, 2010

Spun out of university research labs or started by local entrepreneurs trying to supercharge their hometowns, business incubators are everywhere. This map puts the spotlight on 20 initiatives.

Hawaii is leveraging its most abundant resources — sun and sea. The 45 tenants at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority are developing applications in aquaculture, renewable energy, and marine biotechnology. Who gets in:Innovative start-ups nationwide.Breakout company: Sopogy has raised nearly $20 million for development of its micro-solar panels.

Incubation Nation: Where Great Ideas Are Born - Kona, Hawaii

Incubation Nation: Where Great Ideas Are Born

Click map to see the original, interactive version

Source: Inc.

Sopogy Wins Innovative Company of the Year 2008

November 17, 2008
Business News - Local News

Sun and creativity power Sopogy’s success

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

Christina Failma, PBN
Darren Kimura, president and CEO of Sopogy Inc., with one of the company’s solar collectors, which generate more power faster than typical photovoltaic systems.

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Darren Kimura considers himself a problem solver, always looking for solutions to the world’s troubles.

The Hawaii entrepreneur has built several successful technology companies around that trait, most of them focused on energy-efficient technologies.

“I do one thing — look for customer-based problems,” said Kimura, 33.

Combining this skill with an innovative mindset, Kimura started tinkering with ideas in 2002 to create an affordable technology that could ease electricity costs for businesses.

The tinkering led to building prototypes and eventually the launching last year of Sopogy Inc., PBN’s 2008 Innovative Company of the Year.

Sopogy’s name combines the words solar, power and technology. It was spun off from Energy Industries, which Kimura founded in 1994.

The company has invented a new kind of solar concentrator for generating electricity from the sun’s heat. The technology, resembling large silver troughs, uses mirrors and lenses to concentrate the sun’s rays on fluids, creating steam that turns turbines to generate electricity.

These collectors are very different from the more common photovoltaic panels, which are typically designed for roof-top systems and convert the sun’s energy directly into electricity.

Sopogy’s solar collectors are designed as ground units that can function as solar farms producing huge amounts of energy — up to 50 megawatts, or enough to power 15,000 homes. (The company does, however, also make a roof-top version.)

“At the core of the problem is the fact that as a society, we use more energy than we make,” Kimura said. “The only way to have a fast impact is to take big bites of the apple. You can’t do that with photovoltaics.”

Another distinct feature is the collectors’ capability to store solar energy that can be used after the sun goes down. They also are equipped with tracking systems, which Sopogy engineers created, to maximize productivity and efficiency.

“The software tied to our collectors account for factors such as cloudy skies, high wind speeds and rain,” said Kimura, who serves as president and CEO. “The programming allows the collector to be smart and encodes it with logic, so it can turn itself upside down if it’s cloudy. Although there’s layers and layers of complexity, of course, we’ve tried to make it simple for our customers.”

Kimura said Sopogy has a couple thousand of its collectors — called the SopoNova 4.0 — in use worldwide, including on the West Coast and in Asia, the Middle East and Spain.

“What’s exciting about solar technology is that it can be everywhere and anywhere,” he said. “The technology is made here in Hawaii, tested here, our company is based here, but we just export it out. I think innovation is about trying to create technologies that you can export around the world.”

Most of Sopogy’s 41 employees are based in Hawaii, while some are stationed at the company’s sales offices in San Jose, San Diego and Phoenix.

Kimura said Sopogy is on track to generate $10 million in revenue this year. The privately held company got its start using a combination of venture capital and personal investment from Kimura.

Locally, Sopogy’s technology is in use at the Big Island’s Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority in Kona.

The company sells power from a 1-megawatt system to Hawaii Electric Light Co. The project was designed in phases so that Sopogy could expand the system to up to 10 megawatts.

Sopogy received approval for up to $10 million in state revenue bonds for the NELHA project. It also was approved for up to $35 million in bonds to build a solar farm on Oahu that could generate another 10 megawatts, or enough power for about 3,000 homes, for Hawaiian Electric Co.

Sopogy last year built a 16-collector, 50-kilowatt system in Spokane, Wash., which generates power for the local utility. Sopogy will add a dozen more collectors to the system by next summer.

Sopogy’s collector already has caught the attention of several national and international technology groups.

The National Society of Professional Engineers named it its 2008 new product award winner in the small company category. Meanwhile, the technology is one of four finalists for the Platts Global Energy Awards’ sustainable technology innovation of the year.

“In our world, these awards are like the Emmys or the Academy Awards; all the energy geeks want to win these,” Kimura said. “Out of the hundreds of tech companies in Silicon Valley that are well financed and have great technologies, we’re the one they picked. It’s really exciting.”

Sopogy wants to expand its solar plants around the world and Kimura ultimately wants to take the firm public.

nkalani@bizjournals.com | 955-8001

Pacific Business News (Honolulu) – November 17, 2008
http://pacific.bizjournals.com/pacific/stories/2008/11/17/focus19.html

Sopogy is named Innovative Company of the Year 2008

November 17, 2008
Sopogy is nominated for Business Leadership Hawaii Awards 2008

Sopogy Receives Business Leadership Hawaii 2008 “Innovative Company of the Year” Award

HONOLULU –(Business Wire)– Before 1,000 members of the business community, Sopogy, Inc. was presented the Business Leadership Hawaii (BLH) 2008 “Innovative Company of the Year” Award. The event, which took place at the Hilton Hawaiian Village, honors the best in the business. The Innovative Company of the Year Award recognizes organizations dedicated to developing new approaches to creating products, winning customers, and tackling problems. Sopogy was chosen based on its innovative MicroCSP technologies, used to create Process Heat, Solar Air Conditioning, and Electrical Power, and its commitment to leading Hawaii to a sustainable future and curbing the effects of global climate change.

The 7th annual BLH 2008 awards program is a premier event recognizing leaders in business and non-profits. Finalists were judged by a panel of respected business leaders, many of whom are previous BLH winners. Since its launch in 2002, BLH has recognized more than 160 companies, individuals, and nonprofits. Pacific Business News created BLH to spread the word that Hawaii is a great place to do business because of outstanding and committed leaders.

“The culture of innovation is key to our company’s growth and the development of new products. Sopogy is honored to receive the Business Leadership Hawaii Innovative Company of the Year award,” said Darren T. Kimura, Sopogy Chief Executive Officer.

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. Please visit www.sopogy.org for more information.

Sopogy Solution at Palo Alto Swim Club

September 17, 2008

Palo Alto, CA – To celebrate the Eichler Swim & Tennis Club’s 50 years of service to the Palo Alto community, Sopogy, Inc., the manufacturer of MicroCSP Solar Technologies has donated a MicroCSP solar solution to help reduce the center’s energy costs and shrink its carbon footprint by using clean solar energy.

“We’re making this donation to the Eichler Club and the children of Palo Alto who frequent this facility and represent the future so they can learn about solar energy and the power this energy source has in fighting climate change” said Darren T. Kimura the President of Sopogy, Inc.  “The Sopogy MicroCSP Solar Solution represents a truly versatile approach to the efficient and proven Concentrating Solar Power industry”.

The Sopogy’s Solar Solution consists of a MicroCSP solar concentrator called the SopoNovaä 4.0, which combines the revolutionary features of the company’s unique modular, versatile and scalable Parabolic Trough technology in a small and efficient solar package.  The system at the Eichler Club includes a SopoNova 4.0, heat exchanger, storage tank, automatic system controls and SopoTracker a revolutionary solar tracking technology which enables the system to follow the sun during operation.

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. Please visit www.sopogy.org for more information.

Wall Street Journal “Hawaii the Alternative State”

June 30, 2008

Wall Street Journal features Sopogy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

SOLAR

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

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

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

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

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

ALGAE

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

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

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

SEAWATER

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

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

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

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

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

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

GEOTHERMAL

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

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

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

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

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

Write to Jim Carlton at jim.carlton@wsj.com