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.”

Tim Wong new CFO at Sopogy

Pacific Business News (Honolulu)

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Sopogy Inc. hired its first chief financial officer, bringing Tim Wong on board as the venture-backed company launches demonstration projects on the Big Island and in Spokane, Wash.

The hire comes as the company prepares for expansion and continues to work toward a public offering, according to Darren T. Kimura, president and chief executive officer of the company.

Wong, a former Hawaiian Electric Co. treasury analyst, will oversee financial, accounting, human resources and administrative functions for the company, according to a news release. He will report to Kimura.

The University of Hawaii graduate has served as assistant controller for Spirent Communications, assistant vice president at Central Pacific Bank and senior auditor at accounting firm KPMG.


Date:            10/15/07
Subject:        Sopogy names Tim Wong Chief Financial Officer
Contact:        Sher Komoda, Communications
Tel:              (808) 833-4747                  

Sopogy names Tim Wong Chief Financial Officer

, HI
– Sopogy, Inc. manufacturer of MicroCSP™ solar technologies announced today that Tim Wong, CPA has been named Vice President and Chief Financial Officer for the company.  Based in Honolulu, Wong will oversee all financial, accounting, human resources and administrative functions for the company and will report directly to President and CEO Darren T. Kimura.

Wong previously served as Treasury Analyst for Hawaiian Electric Company (NYSE: HE) where he participated in the company’s largest bond refinancing in 2007.   Prior to his time at Hawaiian Electric he served as assistant controller for Spirent Communications (LSE: SPT) and as Assistant Vice President at Central Pacific Bank (NYSE:CPF).  He began his career at KPMG where he served as senior auditor and received his Certified Public Accounting (CPA).  

“We are very happy to have Tim join team Sopogy.  His deep experience in the financial world combined with his real life understanding of facility management makes him a rare and important asset which will tremendously increase the value of Sopogy’s products and services” said Darren T. Kimura, CEO.

Wong is certified as a Real Property Administrator (RPA) and earned his B.B.A. in Accounting and B.B.A. in Management Information Systems from the University of Hawaii at Manoa. 

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 for more information. 

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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

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
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.

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.

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; 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 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)

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

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.

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.

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