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Sopogy’s Solar Air Conditioning cools Sempra Utility energy center

January 30, 2009

Sopogy technology to be used in California project

Pacific Business News (Honolulu)

Honolulu-based solar energy company Sopogy Inc. will be part of a California demonstration project that aims to showcase six new solar technologies.

Nine of Sopogy’s patented solar concentrators, which the company designs, engineers and manufactures in Hawaii, will be used to run air conditioning units on a 45,000 square-foot building in Downey, Calif.

Sopogy’s 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.

The demonstration project was announced Friday by the Southern California Gas Co. and San Diego Gas & Electric.

The California utilities said they will be testing solar technologies at different California sites over the next 18 months. The utilities are testing five other solar technologies, and says the project should help accelerate the commercialization of the new technologies.

The names of the other five technology companies were not released.

Sopogy — the name combines the words solar, power and technology — was launched in 2007 after five years of research and development. It was spun off from Energy Industries, which Darren Kimura founded in 1994.

Giant solar thermal farms are mainframe computers, Sopogy is the personal computer

July 15, 2008

Sopogy thinks small to make megawatts of solar power

Posted by Martin LaMonica

If giant solar thermal power plants spread across the desert are like a mainframe, Sopogy is making the equivalent of a personal computer.

The Hawaii-based company on Tuesday at the Intersolar 2008 conference will show off the latest version of its MicroCSP–essentially a shrunk-down version of concentrating solar power (CSP) equipment used in power plants.

The SopaNova 4.0, a “micro concentrated solar power” trough, has been redesigned to be longer and use less material.

It’s a trough with a reflective coating that focuses sunlight onto a pipe that carries an oil. That heated liquid goes through an organic Rankine cycle engine to convert it into electricity.
The conventional thinking in solar these days is to think big. Proposals for concentrating solar power plants call for hundreds of rows of troughs or mirrors to make steam to drive an electricity turbine. The output of these proposed plants will be hundreds of megawatts, approaching the size of traditional power plants.
Sopogy’s product, called SopaNova 4.0, is aimed at utilities as well, but for smaller-scale projects, in the range of 250 kilowatts to 25 megawatts. The latest edition is longer–between 12 feet and 18 feet long–than previous editions because of a new manufacturing process.
“On cost per watt, we’re cheaper than PV (photovoltaics),” said CEO Darren Kimura. “But that’s not what really matters. We can do more production. We actually get more sun energy every day.”
With a higher output, the payback on an initial investment comes quicker, he argued. The troughs can be used by corporate customers as well for on-site power generation.
In terms of the efficiency of converting sunlight to electricity, the SopaNova is between 20 percent and 30 percent, he said. That’s lower than its larger CSP cousins, which operate at higher temperatures, but better than most solar photovoltaic cells.
Unlike flat solar photovoltaic panels, solar thermal systems have storage today. In practice, Sopogy’s trough systems can store a few hours worth of electricity, which can be used when electricity is more expensive or when there isn’t light.
Sopogy is thinking relatively small when it comes to its own capital needs.
The company raised $9 million in venture funding earlier this year and got a $35 million special-purpose bond from the state of Hawaii.
Later this year, Sopogy will look to raise another round of equity, which will be more than its past round but far less than the huge deals–some topping $100 million–announced by traditional CSP companies.
“We’re trying to demonstrate that you can do solar technology but still be capex (capital expenditure)-light,” Kimura said.
Ultimately, the company intends to go public. “The goal in solar is to become a really big company and the market space allows for that. If you don’t, you’ll get acquired,” Kimura said.
The company has about 20 customers now. The Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii recently broke ground on a project to install thousands of the troughs to ultimately make one megawatt of electricity.
The troughs can also be used to generate process heat, which can be used in a variety of applications, Kimura said.

Hawaii based Sopogy, Inc. breaks ground on the world’s first MicroCSP solar farm

July 11, 2008

July 9, 2008

SOPOGY PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date: 7/7/08

Contact: Sopogy Corporate Communications

Email: media@sopogy.org

808-237-2324

Subject: SOPOGY BREAKS GROUND ON WORLDS FIRST MICROCSP SOLAR FARM AT THE NATURAL ENERGY LABORATORY OF HAWAII.

Honolulu, HI – Keahole Solar Power, a Concentrated Solar Power solar farm, breaks ground Wednesday July 9, 2008 at 10:30 a.m. with an event hosted by Sopogy, Inc. on the Big Island at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii.  The solar farm will be built in phases over several acres and is the first of its kind in the world to make large-scale use of Hawaii based Sopogy’s proprietary solar concentrating systems known as MicroCSP technologies.

MicroCSP systems use reflectors and optics that harness the energy from the sun to create heat that passes through a turbine to produce electricity.  The Sopogy MicroCSP solar collector system is a robust and elegant concentrating panel that was modeled after the very successful installation of concentrating panels in the Mojave Desert in the mid 1980’s.  These traditional panels at the Solar Energy Generating Station have been producing 354 megawatts energy for over 2 decades, enough power for the Big Island and Maui.  “MicroCSP technologies combine the efficiencies of traditional Concentrated Solar Power collectors but incorporate new key elements that are required for operation in Hawaii.  These elements include a stronger more durable frame that is able to withstand against storms and operating temperatures that enable Hawaii’s contractors to install and service the system,” said Darren T. Kimura the President and CEO of Sopogy.

“Our leading edge MicroCSP solar research began in Kona in 2002 with one concentrating system and it is appropriate that Kona is the home for the world’s first deployment of a MicroCSP solar field,” Kimura said.   “Our technologies create energy from the sun, a sustainable and renewable energy resource and will help Hawaii break its bonds to imported fossil fuel.”

“This is the first renewable energy project at the Natural Energy Laboratory in over 30 years” stated representatives from NELHA.

Selected dignitaries including former Governor George Ariyoshi, Sopogy, Inc. Chairman of the Board of Directors and Founder, Darren T. Kimura, Representative Jon Riki Karamatsu and others will be on hand to participate in the highly anticipated ground breaking ceremony.  Once the first Phase is completed, Keahole Solar Power will produce electricity for over 100 Hawaii homes.  In its entirety, the project can scale up to a 1 megawatt solar farm capable of powering 500 Hawaii homes and off setting over 2 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions, the equivalent of removing 367 cars from Hawaii roads.

The blessing will be done by Sopogy’s Hawaiian Kahu and event will be powered by renewable solar energy and the greenhouse gas emissions from the travel, preparation, set-up and all festivities will be offset with green certificates.

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.

Governor of the State of Hawaii approves $35 million for Sopogy

May 31, 2008

SOPOGY PRESS RELEASE – FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Date: 5/23/08
Subject: GOVERNOR OF THE STATE OF HAWAII SIGNS LAW APPROVING SOPOGY, INC. $35,000,000 FOR THE DEVELOPMENT OF RENEWABLE ENERGY

Contact: Darren T. Kimura, CEO
Tel: (808) 833-4747
Email: dkimura@sopogy.org

Honolulu, HI – Governor of the State of Hawaii Linda Lingle today signed a bill into law that authorizes the issuance of $35,000,000 in special purpose revenue bonds to assist Sopogy, Inc. in the development of renewable energy on the Island of Oahu.

“Due to low energy cost and the high cost of construction, renewable energy has struggled to get traction on the island of O’ahu,” Said Darren T. Kimura President and CEO of Sopogy, Inc. “These special purpose revenue bonds are a critical enabler in bringing clean solar power energy to the residents.”

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.

Download file from Governors Office

Sopogy Scores Funding from Founder of eBay, Cargill and Tetris

May 31, 2008

Earth 2 Tech

Written by Katie Fehrenbacher

The small-scale solar thermal startup Sopogy that we reported was in the process of raising a $9 million round last October, has closed that round from investors including the investment vehicle of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, Ohana Holdings. The folks at New Energy Finance reported the news, and after digging through regulatory filings, Nathaniel Bullard, senior analyst at New Energy Finance reported that the $9.1 million round also included local investors Bethel Tech Holdings, Energy Industries Holdings, Kolohala Holdings, Black River Asset Management a wholly owned subsidiary of Cargill and Tetris video game entrepreneur Henk Rogers.

Well, Google and former dotcom entrepreneur Bill Gross have been busy investing in solar thermal power plants, so why not eBay’s founder? (Perhaps we should add him to our list of 25 Who Ditched Infotech for Cleantech). And former eBay President Jeff Skoll has invested in thin-film solar startup Nanosolar. New Energy Finance notes that Omidyar’s Ohana Holdings has actively been investing in Hawaii as of late, and Bullard tells us that Ohana also previously invested in biodiesel company US BioDiesel Group.

Sopogy has strong roots in the state. Most of its investors are local, and in May Sopogy said the state legislature had approved up to $35 million in special purpose revenue bonds for Sopogy to build and operate a solar plant locally. As of October Sopogy CEO Darren Kimura told us the company is working on getting a 1-megawatt solar system up and running. Kimura also said that Hawaii’s “highest electricity rates in the U.S.” give its technologies “a competitive marketplace to develop and mature.”

The Honolulu-based five-year-old company Sopogy makes small scale solar thermal systems, which are condensed versions of the set-ups that use mirrors and lenses to heat liquid and turn that into power. Ausra, BrightSource, Solel and eSolar are just a few of the startups that have emerged to building large-scale systems on a lot of land and plan that power to utilities.

Sopogy, on the other hand, says its technology can be used where space is limited, even on rooftops, and delivers on a scale in the single megawatts. Each individual collector can produce 500 watts, and the collectors can be strung together for more wattage.

Kimura told VentureBeat last week that Sopogy has gotten enough interest that the company is eying an IPO in the not-too-distant future.