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Hawaii Business Magazine – Sopogy Innovation Company 2010

January 29, 2010



Being Part of the Solution to Big Global Problems

Growing up in Hilo, Darren Kimura saw dock strikes and the closings of sugar plantations and wondered why Hawaii’s people could not be part of their own economic solutions. When the University of Hawaii graduate decided to start a solar-energy business, he chose the much-riskier route of creating new technologies rather than distributing and selling existing products and services.

“Hawaii not only imports oil and exports our dollars for our energy, but we also import technology for renewable energy and export dollars for that, too,” he says. “Renewable energy is the new agriculture and technologies can be designed, developed and deployed here, bringing clean green power to the Islands, but also sold around the world from Hawaii.”

As proof, Sopogy’s invention and manufacture of a unique solar concentrating panel has evolved a new technology called “MicroCSP” (Micro-Concentrating Solar Power), a miniaturized version of larger, decades-old CSP technologies operating in the world’s hot deserts. Reducing the size and improving the durability for a proven solar-energy technology means places like Hawaii – with an ocean salt and volcanic atmosphere, limited land space and tropical-storm weather – can harness sunlight on a large scale for energy.

In December, Sopogy unveiled the world’s first and largest MicroCSP facility, a 4-acre, 500-kilowatt-capacity solar farm in Kona on the Big Island, which can power more than 250 homes and cut oil imports by 2,000 barrels annually. The company says its scalable and modular MicroCSP solar-power collectors, together with its proprietary technologies, have caught international attention and a project is now proposed for Spain. From 2007 to 2008, revenues for the Honolulu-based company of 30 employees soared 680 percent.

However, Kimura says, it wasn’t an overnight success for Sopogy, which is an abbreviation of the words solar-power technology. He started the company in 2002 with his own money and spent the first five years without a profit, while focusing on the development of CSP intellectual properties.

New uses being explored for Sopogy’s technology include creating clean drinking water from sea water and manufacturing portable refrigeration units for farms. These uses are all part of the small company’s big ambition to be part of the solution to the global problems of climate change, energy security and sustainability.

“The culture of innovation has been, and remains, the key to Sopogy’s growth,” says Kimura. “We have the intelligence here in Hawaii to make us the beacon for the rest of the world when it comes to clean and green power.

-By Gail Miyasaki

Sopogy wins Small Business Success Award for innovation

January 28, 2010

Hawaii Business Small Biz Award logo


Honolulu, Hawaii, January 27, 2010 – Sopogy, Inc., the world’s first micro-concentrated solar power provider, garnered an award in the Innovation category presented at the Hawaii Business 2010 SmallBiz Success Awards Event at the Hawaii Prince Hotel.

Hawaii Business magazine annually honors outstanding Hawaii-based small businesses for rapid sales growth, a unique product, notable longevity, overcoming an unusual challenge or executing a dramatic turnaround.  Nearly 100 nominations were evaluated by a panel of ten judges consisting of C-level executives from Hawaii small businesses and organizations, as well as Hawaii Business magazine senior writers.

“We are pleased to be recognized for innovative excellence by our peers,” said Darren Kimura, Sopogy President and CEO.  “This is another step forward for Sopogy to continue our mission to invent, manufacture and sell the world’s most innovative and affordable solar collectors.  The culture of innovation has been instrumental to our company’s growth so we are very proud to receive this honor, but even more importantly, are especially pleased to have a positive impact on our community and the solar industry at whole.”

Sopogy’s award-winning MicroCSP™ technologies efficiently and cost-effectively generate electricity, steam, solar air conditioning and other thermal energy forms – helping customers achieve their renewable energy goals and faster paybacks for their investment.

Most recently, Sopogy unveiled the first MicroCSP™ solar thermal plant across 3.8 acres at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii (NELHA) in Kona, Hawaii in December 2009.  As the largest solar project in Hawaii, it is aptly named “Holaniku at Keahole Point” which comes from the Hawaiian term for a location that has everything required for self-sufficiency.

Sopogy’s flagship technology, the SopoNova™ has pioneered the concept of MicroCSP by combining the reliable performance of conventional concentrating parabolic trough technologies with several novel and revolutionary features that include the world’s first 270 degree MicroCSP tracker, integrated stands, automatic operation, and custom controls.  Additional innovations include the recently launched Sopoflare™, designed specifically for rooftop installations with a unique, easy mounting and fastening system and the Sopolite™, a fully functional mobile lab unit used to collect solar radiation and weather data at any given location and evaluate a project site’s potential.

Locally, Sopogy has been integral in creating green jobs in Hawaii, encouraging the growth of the technology industry in our State, promoting economic diversification, and attracting foreign and mainland investors.  Sopogy’s homegrown technology will help Hawaii become independent from foreign oil while having the intelligence here in Hawaii that will make us the beacon for the rest of the world when it comes to clean and green power.

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. Sopogy’s goal is to create solar solutions that improve the quality of life and simplify the solar power business.  Please visit www.sopogy.org for more information.

About Hawaii Business Magazine
Founded in 1955, Hawaii Business is the oldest regional business magazine in America. The magazine covers the state’s major industries: tourism, construction, agriculture and real estate. The SB section, which runs every month, covers Hawaii’s small businesses.  Its parent company, PacificBasin Communications, also publishes Honolulu Magazine and Pacific Magazine.  Please visit www.hawaiibusiness.com for more information.

Contact: Dy Phung
Marketing and Public Relations Coordinator
Sopogy, Inc.

Global Solar Thermal Energy Council

January 25, 2010

Hawaii: Electricity through Sunshine and MicroCSP Technology
Submitted by Baerbel Epp on Sun, 01/24/2010 – 09:00.

A solar field for electricity production: The 1,000 parabolic trough collectors by Hawaiian manufacturer Sopogy, which stand in the hot Kona desert on the Big Island of Hawaii, equal the output of a 2 MW thermal power.

Photo: Sopogy/Keahole Solar Power

In the middle of December, the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii Authority, USA, inaugurated a huge solar thermal power plant by Hawaiian manufacturer Sopogy, consisting of 1,000 MicroCSP solar panels. With a reflection surface of 5 m2 and a length of 3.7 m, these parabolic trough collectors weigh 68 kg and follow the sun from east to west during the course of the day. Their reflectors are delivered by the German aluminium coating specialist Alanod Aluminium-Veredlung GmbH & Co. KG. They focus the sunlight on the receiver, which is filled with a liquid that heats up while running through a row of MicroCSP units. The demonstration project with a thermal power rating of 2 MW spans across almost 4 acres in the hot Kona desert on the Big Island.

“Through the use of mirrors and optics and an integrated sun tracker, these panels achieve an efficiency of 20 to 40 %, which is much higher than the average efficiency of crystalline photovoltaic modules with about 15 %,” the website of Sopology explains. The company was founded 7 years ago and focuses on bringing new renewable energy technology to the market.

To date, Sopogy has 8 solar thermal energy facilities with MicroCSP technology in operation around the world. They cover a wide range of applications, from solar cooling and process heat to desalination. The latest installation in Hawaii is also the first one to produce electricity. The US $20 million investment includes a lab and some portions of the parabolic trough field that will be used for advanced field R&D. The system also uses a thermal energy storage buffer to store some hot liquid for allowing energy production during cloudy periods and in the evening. Private equity investors supported the project. “We have a power purchase agreement in place, which allows for a reasonable rate of return,” Darren T. Kimura, President and CEO of Sopogy Solar Power Technology, explains.

The background to this story: The state of Hawaii is currently importing 90 % of its energy. The overwhelming dependency on energy imports prompted Governor Linda Lingle to sign a Clean Energy Initiative at the beginning of January 2008. The initiative aims at producing at least 70 % of the islands’ electricity through clean energy by 2030. The concentrated solar thermal technology is a major step towards reaching this ambitious target. Sopogy and its local solar project development partner Keahole Solar Power have the aim of adding 30 MW of MicroCSP power to the electricity grid of the state by 2015.

More information:

Sopogy in the Wave

January 18, 2010

Sopogy, Inc. (Sopogy), founded in 2002 and headquartered in Honolulu, specializes in the development, design, manufacture, and distribution of MicroCSP™ technology. Their award-winning solar collectors are used for power, steam/process heat, hybrid, desalination, refrigeration, and solar cooling. Sopogy is focused on expanding the middle market for MicroCSP™ in areas that conventional large-scale Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) is not viable. Their goal is to lower the cost of smaller-scale CSP in order to become competitive in areas with high utility costs.

Sopogy is the world’s first micro-concentrated solar power provider. The concept of scaled down Concentrated Solar Power (CSP) is what distinguishes MicroCSP™ from large scale CSP.  MicroCSP™ is intended to broaden the market for solar technology and applications for commercial, industrial, and utility use.

Concentrated Solar Power systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of the sun’s heat into a small beam. The concentrated heat can then used as a heat source for a conventional power plant or any heat driven process like steam generation. Sopogy utilizes concentrated solar power in the form of a parabolic trough to create solar solutions that improve the quality of life and simplify the solar power business to efficiently address the 100kW-50MW gap that PV and large Concentrating Solar Power (CSP) companies cannot accommodate.

Sopogy’s highly differentiated approach to solar energy brings solar solutions to all energy users in a modular, rugged, concentrating solar thermal system.

Sopogy is uniquely positioned with scalable solutions to quickly produce power.

Sopogy invented a new way to take proven CSP systems and reduce the product size to be appropriate for Hawaii. This includes redesigning the space-frame so the collector can withstand Hawaii’s tropical storms and rains, changing the metals to survive the salty and volcanic atmosphere, and using local contractors to bring green-collar jobs to Hawaii while giving the systems reliability.

The company also developed a proprietary manufacturing and assembly process to make the deployment of solar thermal systems internationally inexpensive and more efficient.

“Sopogy has incorporated our unique frame, ready-to-assemble manufacturing, and automated controls into a new compact product designed for rooftop installation.  This brings concentrating solar power to the commercial and industrial facility in a cost effective, space efficient, and contractor friendly solution.  All combined, our customers receive the fastest paybacks available in solar, helping them save money and fight global warming,” said Darren T. Kimura, President and CEO, Sopogy, Inc. 

Sopogy’s key products are the SopoNova™, SopoFlare™, and SopoLite™. The SopoNova™ is a larger ground-mounted solar collector used to create electricity, or any of the other applications listed above. The SopoFlare™ is a smaller rooftop product designed for generating air conditioning or producing drinking water from seawater. SopoLite™ is a fully functional mobile lab unit used to gather data at any given location and evaluate a project site’s potential. Independent energy analysts have observed the MicroCSP™ market as being over a $20 billion dollar industry.

The actions of the company have not gone unnoticed.  Sopogy’s activities have been featured in the Wall Street Journal, New York Times, LA Times, BBC, National Public Radio, and in China, Singapore, Spain, Australia and Japan.  Some of the headlines include: “Sopogy™’s MicroCSP™ technologies are the next CFL” and “If large solar farms are the mainframe, Sopogy is making the personal computer.”

Sopogy’s collector SopoNova™ was recognized by Plant Engineering as the 2008 Product of the Year Gold Award, a win over companies like Mercedes-Benz and Siemens. National Society of Professional Engineers awarded Sopogy’s SopoNova4.0TM New Product Award for 2008.

Recently, Sopogy introduced SopoFlare™ the newest MicroCSP™ product in the world of Concentrating Solar Power solutions at Solar Power International 2009 in Anaheim, the largest solar conference and expo in the U.S. SopoFlare™ is the first commercially available Concentrating Solar Power technology designed specifically for rooftop installations with a unique, easy mounting and fastening system. The system easily retrofits into existing facilities, reducing natural gas consumption, giving users an estimated 3-year payback on installation.

Locally, Sopogy has been integral in creating green jobs in Hawaii, encouraging the growth of the technology industry in our State, promoting economic diversification, and attracting foreign and mainland investors.  Sopogy’s homegrown Hawaiian technology will help us become independent from foreign oil.  We have the intelligence here in Hawaii to make us a beacon for the rest of the world when it comes to clean and green power.

Sopogy understands that the community is a part of our company growth and we have been working hard in giving back as volunteers in community service events.  In 2009 Sopogy supported the Aloha United Way, Ma’o Farms, Hawaii Humane Society, the Food Kitchen for Homeless, Keep America Beautiful clean-up, Alzheimer’s Association, and helped organize a toy drive for Institute for Human Services Women’s Shelter. In addition, company executives have donated over 50 hours to educate the public through educational outreach.