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

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Keahole Solar Power, HECO sign power-purchase agreement to use Sopogy technologies

March 8, 2012

Pacific Business News by Duane Shimogawa, Reporter

Date: Wednesday, March 7, 2012, 6:01am HST – Last Modified: Wednesday, March 7, 2012, 6:01am HST

Reporter - Pacific Business News

Keahole Solar Power LLC has signed a contract with Hawaiian Electric Co.   that commits the utility to buy power from Keahole’s planned 5-megawatt solar farm in Kalaeloa in leeward Oahu.

Terms of the power-purchase agreement were not disclosed, and the contract still needs approval from the state Public Utilities Commission.

HECO officials confirmed the agreement with Keahole Solar Power on Tuesday.

“We’re pleased,” said HECO spokesman Darren Pai. “This is [yet] another step toward reducing our dependence on imported oil, and it just adds to our diverse portfolio of clean energy resources.”

Keahole Solar Power President Tim Wong told PBN that the contract allows for financing to start the project, which will be built on 43 acres of land leased from the Department of Hawaiian Homelands    .

Funds generated will go toward an educational renewable energy program for Native Hawaiians.

Keahole Solar Power will develop the project utilizing 9,520 of Sopogy Inc.’s    solar-concentrating panels. Keahole Solar Power was founded in 2007 as a spin-off of Sopogy.

Keahole Solar Power broke ground on the 5-megawatt project last October. Construction should begin later this month and finish by the end of this year, according to Wong.

In 2009, Keahole Solar Power completed the first solar power system on the Big island; it produces 2 megawatts of energy. The company hopes to bring 30 megawatts of solar power to the state by 2015.

Keahole Solar Power has three subsidiaries: KSP Development, KSP Generation and KSP Innovation.

“We’re focused on getting this project [at Kalaeloa] going,” Wong said. “We’re also doing business development all across the state.”

Duane Shimogawa covers energy, real estate and economic development for Pacific Business News.