Sopogy presents at Intersolar 2013

Sopogy founder Darren T. Kimura presents MicroCSP technologies at Intersolar 2013.

Solar thermal power plants are designed to deliver dispatchable power through storage (molten salt) or hybrid operation, thus enabling a higher total share of intermittent renewable energies in a future energy mix. However, significant cost reductions experienced by conventional crystalline wafer-based technologies have challenged the financial viability and commercial attractiveness of CSP projects worldwide. According to an analysis conducted by the International Energy Agency (IEA) CSP may have a share of about 12% of global power supply by 2050. In this session speakers will present the current and future technological trends of CSP applications, as well results and experienced gained through long-term operation and maintenance of CSP projects around the world. In addition, an overview will be given about the current status of market developments across various regions of the globe.

Intersolar 2013 Darren Kimura

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

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.”

Copyright © 2012, Los Angeles Times

The Climate Reality Project

November 14, 2012

NOVEMBER 14-15, 2012
Dirty energy has created a world of Dirty Weather. Today, climate disruption affects us all. And it will take all of us together to solve it. Join us for 24 Hours of Reality: The Dirty Weather Report, when together we will stand up and demand real solutions to the climate crisis.

10:00PM NOVEMBER 14, 2012

In a special conversation, Climate Reality Chairman and Founder Al Gore speaks with government and business leaders in Hawaii about their activities to combat climate change, while President and CEO Maggie L. Fox leads a discussion with Fabien Costeau, grandson of Jacques Costeau and founder of Plant a Fish, on the health of our world’s oceans.

The Health of the Oceans

Fabien Cousteau, Founder, Plant a Fish
Maggie L. Fox, President and CEO, The Climate Reality Project
Dawn Martin, President and Chair of the Board, SeaWeb

Clean Energy in Hawaii

Al Gore, Founder and Chairman, The Climate Reality Project
Brian Schatz, Lt. Governor, State of Hawaii
Darren Kimura, President and CEO, Sopogy

Desalination Pilot Project Harnesses Solar Power

June 26, 2012

Renewable Water Technologies LLC is developing a new seawater desalination process that uses less energy than conventional methods. Project engineer Riley McGivern, shown at RWT’s Kakaako facility, says the pilot project’s objective is to show that such a system can work in a real-world setting.

On a sun-soaked patch of gravel in Kakaako a small group of entrepreneurs are pioneering technology that uses solar energy to turn salt water into fresh water.

The work being done by Renewable Water Technologies is early in the research and development process, but the company’s founders say it has the potential to be scaled up for commercial applications.

Much of seawater desalination done in Hawaii and elsewhere is accomplished through reverse osmosis, a relatively energy-intensive process that removes the salt and other solids from water by forcing it through a membrane under high pressure.

By comparison, RWT’s technology uses solar thermal collectors to heat the water and remove the salt through a humidification-dehumidification (HDH) process. The company’s pilot project features solar panels similar to those found in home rooftop water heating systems. The company is installing photovoltaic panels that will power the low-wattage pumps needed to move the water through the system.

“It is designed to be modularized and deployable,” said John Chock, one of the company’s principals. “That’s the way the business will grow. Our business model is to produce small-scale, solar-powered desalination systems.”

Potential customers include the military and oceanfront hotels, Chock said.

RWT will hold an open house at 11 a.m. Thursday at the Kakaako facility, 40 Ahui St.

Chock teamed up with University of Hawaii School of Engineering professor Weilin Qu and his former student Riley McGivern to form RWT in late 2010. The company’s technology is adapted from work Qu and McGivern did in a UH laboratory. RWT placed second in the 2011 UH Business Plan Competition.

RWT’s technology is particularly attractive in a place like Hawaii, where there are limits to the amount of fresh water that can be pumped from aquifers and high energy costs make other forms of desalination expensive, Qu said.

The output of the Kakaako pilot project so far has been limited to a few gallons an hour as the water samples are tested to make sure the system is meeting its benchmarks, McGivern said.

The objective is to show that such a system can work in a real-world setting, said McGivern, who has a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from UH. “It’s a stand-alone system. A lot of this is proof of concept,” said McGivern, 25.

RWT is being funded by the Hawaii Technology Development Venture, a project administered by the Pacific International Center for High Technology Research that receives funding from the Office of Naval Research. The site near the Children’s Discovery Center is being provided by the Hawaii Community Development Authority.

Qu received an initial $50,000 grant from the Hawaii Technology Development Venture in 2009 with renewable energy company Sopogy Inc. as his corporate partner. Based on success in the lab, RWT was formed and received $300,000 in funding under a contract with the Hawaii Technology Development Venture to do the Kakaako pilot project. Oceanit Laboratories Inc. is RWT’s partner under the contract.

Chock, the former head of the state-run Hawaii Strategic Development Corp., said RWT is an example of what new UH-Manoa Chancellor Tom Apple referred to when he emphasized the need to make a greater effort to maximize the school’s income potential.

“We have some very good technology coming out of university research that often doesn’t reach the commercial stage because the typical professor doesn’t have the necessary entrepreneurial skills,” Chock said. Projects like RWT show that local research and development has the potential to be successfully commercialized, he said.

The University of Hawaii has not fared well in terms of generating licensing revenue from spending on research. UH received $256 million in research money in fiscal 2010 and took in $107,702 in licensing income, according to the latest data from the Association of University Technology Managers.

A 2010 report by the UH Office of Technology Transfer and Economic Development acknowledged the school’s shortcomings in generating revenue from its R&D efforts.

The report, prepared for UH President M.R.C. Greenwood, said “there is much room for improvement” within university’s technology transfer office, which was established in 1989 and reorganized in 2000.

Among the challenges facing the office are establishing new relationships between the school and outside investor groups and entrepreneurs, according to the report. Officials also must work to change the culture of the school by “hiring and supporting entrepreneurial faculty and rewarding their efforts to move promising scientific developments into broader use for the benefit of society,” according to the report.

Palm Springs Air Museum to adopt cutting-edge A/C

June 8, 2012

Palm Springs Air Museum to adopt cutting-edge A/C

Innovative setup uses hot water for air conditioning


The vintage World War II airplanes at the Palm Springs Air Museum will soon have a cutting-edge solar thermal air conditioning system to keep them cool, run almost entirely by hot water.

The technology, called micro-concentrated solar power, or MicroCSP, uses solar thermal troughs to collect and intensify heat from the sun to heat liquid, which will then be used to cool the 22,000-square-foot hangar where the planes are displayed.

The heated liquid is used in a process called absorption refrigeration that requires no electricity or gas to power an air conditioning system, although the Air Museum system will have a natural gas backup generator.

The museum spends about $100,000 a year on electricity, with the lion’s share, 80 percent, going to air conditioning, said Fred Bell, vice chairman of the museum’s board. He expects the new system to cut those costs by at least a quarter, he said.

Bell, who is also chief operating officer of Noble & Co., a Palm Desert solar developer, said his firm has no financial involvement in the project.

The system which could be installed in the fall, is being funded through a $1.5 million investment that Southern California Gas Co. made earlier this year in Sopogy, the Hawaiian company that has developed the system.

Officials for both companies declined to say exactly how much of the investment will be used for the Palm Springs system, which is the first full-scale commercial test of Sopogy’s technology in California.

“The Palm Springs Air Museum demonstration project is a great example of how energy-efficient technologies, renewable solar energy and clean, affordable natural gas can all work together,” said Hal D. Snyder, cq vice president of customer solutions for SoCal Gas.

To date, Sopogy has a total of seven installations worldwide in locations ranging from Texas to Abu Dhabi, cq company officials said.

“Palm Springs is an ideal location for solar power, and we feel a special connection to the Palm Springs Air Museum,” said Darren T. Kimura, Sopogy’s president and CEO.

“Sopogy’s headquarters are around the corner from Pearl Harbor, once home to Wildcats, Flying Fortresses and other WWII fighter planes.”

The solar thermal troughs will be installed in the museum’s north overflow parking lot, and then linked into the existing air conditioners on the hangar.

K Kaufmann covers energy and green technology and health care for The Desert Sun. She can be reached or (760) 778-4622

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.

Masdar turns to Sun’s Heat to Cool Buildings

February 29, 2012

Masdar has successfully activated a proprietary double-effect solar thermal cooling system – the first in the Gulf region and one of only a handful in the world – to test the viability of using the sun’s heat to cool buildings at Masdar City, the emerging low-carbon cleantech cluster being constructed on the outskirts of the UAE capital Abu Dhabi. Designed and engineered by Masdar, the pilot plant is the only one in the world to combine two different concentrating solar thermal collector technologies in a single system.

“Green” air conditioning systems generally consist of conventional compression chillers powered by electricity from photovoltaic panels or concentrated solar power plants. While such conventional chillers and air conditioners use electricity to run a compressor, a double-effect absorption chiller such as the one being tested at Masdar City uses heat to activate a chemical process that provides chilled water for cooling.

If successful, the technology could become a major source of cooling across the 6km2 city. Solar cooling is ideal for medium-scale cooling loads, such as those of supermarkets and shopping malls and can also be implemented in a central cooling plant configuration (“district cooling”). It is especially well suited to address peak cooling demand as the solar thermal energy supply closely matches high daytime cooling demand.

Masdar turns to Sun's Heat to Cool Buildings

“This project reflects the ongoing innovation taking place at Masdar City as we push the boundaries of sustainable cooling to deliver new solutions that not only compete with conventional systems in terms of quality but also excel in terms of what we can achieve via optimised and cost-effective implementation of state-of-the-art solar technologies,” according to Afshin Afshari, Head of Energy Management at Masdar City.

The collectors include a Sopogy parabolic trough collector with uniaxial tracking and a total mirror aperture area of 334m2. It heats thermal oil, whose heat is transferred to the system’s pressurised water circuit through a heat exchanger. A Mirroxx linear Fresnel collector with uniaxial tracking and a total mirror aperture area of 132m2 heats the pressurised water directly.

Schneider Electric provided the control system components for the pilot plant and EM Hidromontaza installed the integrated system. The Fraunhofer Institute of Solar Energy will analyse the monitored data and assess system performance.

The two solar thermal collector systems have been in successful test operation already for more than three months, explained Simon Bräuniger, project manager for Masdar’s pilot plants. “The collector’s thermal energy has been driving the Broad 50-refrigeration-ton double-effect absorption chiller that is cooling our office building since mid-September, marking the start of full operation for the pilot project.”

The system provides sustainable cooling to 1700m2 of office space using advanced air-conditioning and delivery equipment from Swegon, such as active chilled beams and an air handling unit that achieves 75% energy recovery. The objective is to demonstrate that high-temperature solar thermal cooling is more cost effective and requires a smaller collector footprint compared to a conventional electric chiller plant powered by solar-generated electricity. The solar cooling pilot installation produces cooling equivalent to approximately 80 conventional split-type air conditioning systems, leading to annual emissions reductions of approximately 70,000 kg of CO2.

The pilot plant will be operated for approximately two years to test the technology’s suitability in Abu Dhabi’s climate and weather conditions, and assess the scope of cleaning and maintenance requirements.


Base clean-energy projects reflect president’s priorities includes Sopogy technology

February 5, 2012

Tony Davis Arizona Daily Star | Posted: Saturday, February 4, 2012 12:00 am

Nancy Sutley, chairwoman of the White House Council on Environmental Quality, and Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild tour Davis-Monthan Air Force Base's alternative-energy projects. Sutley was here on Friday

A smorgasbord of new clean energy projects at Davis-Monthan Air Force Base shows what’s needed to create an economy “built to last,” said a top White House environmental aide who visited them Friday.

Council on Environmental Quality Chairwoman Nancy Sutley visited a solar-panel-topped basketball court, a device using dry cells to inject hydrogen into car engines and an energy-saving, ceramic-paint-topped building.

She quoted the Obama administration’s economic catchphrase as she proclaimed these test projects are examples that should be transferred to civilian life to build a clean-energy economy.

During the tour, base officials discussed plans to have the California-based Sun Edison utility build enough solar panels to boost the base’s solar capacity to 14.5 megawatts, or about 35 percent of the total power used there. The project starts construction in March and is slated to finish in May, officials said.

They added that the project will put the base above the national standard of 71.5 percent renewable energy sources for military facilities. The base has two solar-panel facilities providing about six megawatts of power to homes.

Sutley, touring with Tucson Mayor Jonathan Rothschild, saw:

• An array of Sopogy MicroCSP thermal energy collectors under construction that will chill water that in turn will cool an educational-and-recreational center for base kids. The cost wasn’t available.

• A ceramic-painted building with nontoxic paint that’s supposed to use 22 percent less energy due to the ceramic material’s insulating qualities. The paint costs about $80 per gallon. It was one of four projects under development that Sutley saw at the aging-aircraft maintenance facility known as the Boneyard.

• A microturbine generator that can run on relatively clean natural gas or propane, as opposed to dirtier diesel fuel. The generators cost $100,000 for a 65 kilowatt model and up to $1.7 million for a model generating one megawatt. The turbines power a small building and an air compressor used on pneumatic tools.

• A cooling device that uses a little less energy than a standard evaporative cooler and 80 percent less than an air conditioner. A 5-ton unit costs $5,000.

• Dry cell generators that use the power of alternators to generate hydrogen to use as auto fuels. They can provide up to 6 percent of a vehicle’s fuel requirements, and improve gasoline mileage by 15 to 20 percent, D-M officials said, for a $1,000-per-vehicle kit.

“It’s self-contained, mounted under the hood, with no moving parts,” Davis-Monthan Major Andy Middione told Sutley.

“Do you think it will work on my Subaru?” Sutley asked, to which Middione replied “yes,” adding said it could be installed by any mechanic.

• A 144-room dormitory, costing $12.8 million and partially occupied, that has passive solar heating and piping for gray water along with the solar panels atop the basketball court.

The tour came as President Obama is pushing a sweeping renewable-energy policy calling for continued tax credits to encourage solar purchases. At the same time, he’s supporting continued development of natural gas reserves, which has stirred some concern among renewable advocates that the cheaper gas will discourage use of more expensive renewables.

Meeting with reporters after the tour, Sutley signaled the administration’s willingness to continue to push for more solar panel manufacturing in this country. That’s despite widespread cutbacks among domestic panel manufacturers due to competition from cheaper Chinese panels. Sutley said there is demand for solar panels around the country, and “people want to be close to the demand.”

On StarNet: Read more environment-related articles at

Contact reporter Tony Davis at or 806-7746.
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Sopogy is APEC Technology Showcase Winner

November 5, 2011

The APEC Technology Showcase winner for the City and County of Honolulu is 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 power generation, air conditioning, and process heat.

This video will be played during APEC Leaders’ Week on the special in-room TV station, created for the Hawaii Host Committee by 1013 integrated, a Pacific Focus Inc. company. LWTV will be seen in the 30 APEC host hotels on O’ahu on the hotel television network of Visitor Video Inc. in conjunction with Convention Television.

Whole Foods “Thrive” Episode 9.3

October 28, 2011

Our planet will support a projected 9.3 billion people by 2050. Visionaries around the world are meeting this challenge now—working on solutions for a flourishing human race by addressing dwindling resources for clean water, energy, food and space to live.

The sun generates far more energy than necessary for life on Earth, yet only a fraction of that is utilized for solar power. In Arizona an innovative company “First Solar” makes thin-film photovoltaic modules affordable and recyclable, while an engineer in Hawai’i with “Sopogy” addresses the challenge of storage.

Lisa Krueger, VP for Sustainable Development at First Solar in Arizona Lisa has a Chemical Engineering degree from Missouri University of Science and Technology and an M.B.A. from Rice. At First Solar she led the vision for creating pre-funded collection and recycling of their photovoltaic modules.

Darren T. Kimura, President and CEO of Sopogy, Inc. in Hawaii Darren studied electrical engineering at Portland State then received a B.A. from the University of Hawaii. He created the core technologies for Sopogy while at Energy Laboratories, a clean technology incubator.

PBN: APEC Host Committee names Showcase finalists

August 15, 2011

Pacific Business News – by Linda Chiem , Pacific Business News

Date: Tuesday, August 9, 2011, 2:19pm HST

Thirty-five Hawaii businesses have made the final cut for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation 2011 Hawaii Business Innovation Showcase — a business recognition program the Hawaii Host Committee launched to promote local businesses during the APEC Leaders’ Week meetings Honolulu will host in November.

Most of the businesses are at the forefront of Hawaii’s burgeoning technology and renewable energy sectors, which falls right in line with the U.S. goal of promoting “green growth” at the APEC meetings.

In May, the APEC Hawaii Host Committee, in partnership with the Chamber of Commerce of Hawaii and the four counties, established the showcase to provide what it described as an unprecedented opportunity for businesses registered in the state to showcase innovation in products and services to an international audience during the APEC 2011 Leaders’ Week, which takes place Nov. 7-13.

Of the 35 finalists, one winner from each county and one overall statewide winner will be selected Sept. 6.

The winners will get top billing and exposure at key venues and events during APEC Leaders’ Week — an enviable prize for any local business since so much of Hawaii’s success from hosting APEC rides on the exposure and publicity it generates for the entire state. For more information, click here.

Here’s the list of finalists, by island:

On Oahu:

• Avatar Reality Inc.;

• Cardax Pharmaceuticals Inc.;

• Clear Fuels Technology;

• Hawaiian Electric Co. Inc.;

• Hoana Medical Inc.;

• Hoku Corp.;

• Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning LLC;

• Makai Ocean Engineering Inc.;

• Nanopoint Inc.;

• Navatek Ltd.;

• Oceanit;

• Onipaa Kakou LLC;

• Outrigger Hotels Hawaii;

• Referentia Systems Inc.;

• See/Rescue Corp.;

• Skai Ventures;

• Sopogy;

• Sunetric;

• The Queen’s Medical Center;

• Tissue Genesis;

On the Big Island:

• Big Island Abalone Corp.;

• Big Island Carbon LLC;

• Hawaii Oceanic Technology Inc.;

• Hawaii Preparatory Academy;

• Imiloa Astronomy Center of Hawaii;

•Pacific Regional Disaster Preparedness Center;

• Hilo Disaster Preparedness Training Center;

On Maui:

• Functional Nutriments LLC;

• Grower’s Secret Inc.;

• H Nu Energy;

• Noni Biotech;

• Pacific Biodiesel Inc.;

• Westec Environmental Solutions.

On Kauai:

• Aqua Engineers Inc.;

• Malie Inc.;

• TREX Enterprises Corp.


CNBC: Sopogy, Hawaii’s Energy Future

March 16, 2011

By: Jane Wells

No state in the nation is as dependent on oil as Hawaii.

Oil fuels 90 percent of its power grid, and all that fuel has to be shipped in. Governor Neil Abercrombie estimates oil costs the state of 1.3 million people $7 billion a year.

So Hawaii has been investing heavily in alternative sources of power, with a goal of getting 30 percent of all power from alternative sources by 2030, compared to about 10 percent now. Going green is a big theme here.

Even Hawaiian-born Pierre Omidyar, founder of Ebay [EBAY  30.78    0.83  (+2.77%)  ], is putting his money where his mouth is, as his charitable organizationsupports some sustainability projects.

But in Hawaii, NIMBY (not in my backyard) takes on a whole new meaning. When land is limited, the entire state is your backyard. Winning over the locals to the idea of wind farms and solar arrays in paradise takes patience and flexibility.

“I think it’s a great step forward,” says Carol Feinga, who helps head a community association in the town of Laie, on Oahu’s north shore. She’s talking about a new wind farm in nearby Kahuku built by First Wind, which will provide enough power to serve 7,700 homes. “For us to succeed and survive there are opportunities available for renewable resources,” she says in the shadow of the massive turbines.

But, so far, green power isn’t any cheaper, even with federal subsidies. “Right now we’re probably a little bit more expensive (than traditional electricity), but over a relatively short period of time, we’re going to be competitive,” says First Wind’s Chief Development Officer Kurt Adams.

His firm was able to build the new wind farm with a government loan, and Adams says that for the first time, a plant will combine turbines with a special battery system to smooth out volatility to the electrical grid caused by changes in wind velocity. Both the turbines and the batteries used here are built by American companies.

The Kahuku wind farm sits just out of view of the Turtle Bay Resort, but you can’t miss it if you’re driving on the main road. First Wind also operates a larger wind farm on Maui,  visible on the mountainside while driving from the airport to Lahaina.

The company would also like to build on Molokai as part of a plan to capture wind on outer islands and bring that power underwater to Honolulu, where it’s most needed. But locals on Molokai have not agreed on what land First Wind can use. David Murdock’s Castle & Cooke is running into similar problems on Lanai, where locals are pushing back against a wind farm that some feel will do more harm than good.

“Hawaiians have a very strong sense of their place,” says Kurt Adams of First Wind. “So we like to reach out to the community and spend a lot of time working with the community before we break ground.”

That’s something that Darren T. Kimura, CEO of Sopogy, already knows. His company is based in Hawaii, developing technology for concentrated solar power plants around the world, including one on the Big Island.

“The islands are separated, so every single island has its own grid,” he says, explaining the challenge of integrating renewable energy, with its intermittent nature, such as clouds over the sun. “Our technology incorporates storage, where we are able to basically buffer the effects of clouds.” Kimura says that with concentrated solar, a plant can store power to be used after the sun sets, “way up to maybe even midnight.”

He says solar power companies haven’t experienced the same pushback from locals that the wind energy industry has seen. Still, he’s heard complaints, like feedback on Sopogy’s solar collector called the SopoNova . “We heard from the locals here, ‘Wow, SopoNova’s really ugly’—and it did look ugly. We redesigned it, we designed the aesthetics of it to match the ground color for example, and we made it blend in with local topology.”

Such efforts pay off. Green energy has won over converts. “We lack sustainability,” says resident John Primacio of Kahuku, who’s become a fan of the wind farm. He was impressed that First Wind actually bought the land for the facility rather than leasing it.

“We interpret that to mean they’re going to stay here,” says Primacio. “They’re going to develop and continue providing wind energy. It can only help the endeavor to cut the state from buying oil.”

Star Advertiser: Sopogy thrives by thinking big

March 13, 2011

The high-tech company is using its expertise to compete globally

By Alan Yonan Jr.

POSTED: 12:30 a.m. HST, Mar 13, 2011

From its modest headquarters in an industrial area near Honolulu Airport, homegrown high-tech company Sopogy Inc. is taking on some of the world’s biggest names in renewable energy.

Launched in 2002 by local entrepreneur Darren Kimura, Sopogy has leveraged its expertise in the field of concentrated solar power to win contracts on the mainland and across the globe. Among its competitors are Siemens AG, a German conglomerate with a market capitalization of $116 billion, and Spain’s Abengoa SA, another multibillion-dollar firm.

Sopogy, which pioneered the development of “MicroCSP” technology, recently announced its biggest deal to date: the installation of 200 megawatts of generating capacity in China.

“Sopogy is a perfect example of a tech company that has hit a home run in Hawaii,” said Bill Spencer, president of the Hawaii Venture Capital Association. “Darren is a testament to how a technology company in Hawaii can seek out a global market and deliver. There are no boundaries if it is done properly.”

Sopogy’s patented system is a variation on an older solar energy technology first tested 30 years ago in the Mojave Desert. The Department of Energy oversaw the project near Barstow, Calif., that featured huge mirrored troughs used to concentrate solar energy and create steam that turned a turbine to generate electricity.

Kimura and his team took the technology, scaled down the troughs to one-fourth of the size and made other improvements that resulted in the systems being more mobile and less costly. Since completing research and development in 2005 Sopogy has installed six MicroCSP systems and has at least six more in the development stage. Project locations include Abu Dhabi, Mexico and Papua New Guinea.

The company has been growing at about 300 percent a year since 2005, but Kimura said he expects that to slow to a mere 60 percent to 80 percent annually in the coming years.

The 37-year-old Kimura, who launched his first company while a student at the University of Hawaii, has assembled an impressive management team that includes former Kamehameha Schools Vice President Michael Loo as chief financial officer.

Kimura remains chairman of the board of Energy Industries, an energy-efficiency consulting firm he launched in 2004 that now has offices across the western U.S., Hawaii, Guam and Japan.

“I can still say that all my companies are based here because that’s fundamental to what I do,” Kimura said. “I’m trying to develop an energy industry here that we can use to create critical mass.”

Kimura’s commitment to Hawaii, both through his business ventures and community outreach, will help pave the way for future local entrepreneurs looking to get ventures off the ground here, said Yuka Nagashima, president of the Hawaii Technology Development Corp.

“He’s very community oriented. He’s passing along his experience, and the more successful companies that Hawaii produces, the easier it will be for the rest of us,” Nagashima said.

“It helps counter the image of Hawaii as only a tourist destination.”

Sopogy was one of several Hawaii startups that benefited from a now-defunct state program known as Act 221 that provided tax breaks to investors who put money into local tech companies.

“It made people more willing to invest in Hawaii companies. That’s why I supported 221,” Spencer said. “We needed a way to get people to invest in Hawaii. At the same time, we have to have confidence in our entrepreneurs. We just needed to prime the pump,” he said.

Sopogy has 42 patents in various stages on its technology, Kimura said. One of the breakthroughs the company was able to achieve through its R&D was a way to use the heat from its solar collectors to turn a turbine without using steam. Standard CSP systems, as well as many oil-fired generators, use steam to turn turbines. But using steam requires a constant supply of fresh water. In addition, steam corrodes turbine blades, requiring frequent maintenance.

Sopogy’s system instead uses a thermodynamic cycle that achieves the same results without using steam, Kimura said. Parabolic mirrors made of polished aluminum are used to collect sunlight and focus it on a tube carrying a heat-transfer fluid, usually mineral oil. The mineral oil is heated to about 500 degrees Fahrenheit and pumped through an evaporator where the heat is used to vaporize a liquid refrigerant. The vapors turn a turbine that generates electricity. The mineral oil is then sent back to the mirrors to be reheated. The vaporized refrigerant is cooled and returned to a liquid state to be used again.

Sopogy also uses its MicroCSP technology to power air-conditioning systems using an absorption cooling process. The system works in much the same as a natural gas air-conditioning system.

In both systems, water is heated to temperatures just cooler than 200 degrees and collected in a storage tank. The water then goes through an absorption chiller that cools the cold water used in the building’s fan units.

Renewable Energy World: Excellence in Renewable Energy Award Finalists Announced

February 20, 2011

The results are in and finalists have been chosen for the top North American renewable energy leaders, innovations and projects of the year. Readers’ Choice voting opens today!

Readers were asked to submit nominations for excellent renewable energy projects, innovations and leaders. In all, more than 560 nominations were received for awards that will be given in 11 categories.

Network editors sorted through the nominations, rated them, and narrowed down the list of finalists. The eleven categories include: Project of the Year for solar, wind, biomass, geothermal and hydro; Innovation awards for technology, policy/outreach and finance/business; and Leadership awards for technology, policy/outreach and finance/business.

Leadership in Technology

  • Riggs Eckelberry, President and CEO of OriginOil
  • James G. P. Dehlsen, Former Chairman, Clipper Wind, now CEO of Ecomerit Technologies
  • Randy Gee, Chief Technology Officer, SkyFuel
  • Dr. Jennifer Holmgren, CEO, LanzaTech
  • Darren T. Kimura, Founder and CEO, Sopogy
  • Roch Duce, ERDC-CERL Energy Branch Senior Researcher (US Army Corp of Engineers)

GetSolar: Solar Power Helps Hawaiians Cut Fossil Fuel Use

February 2, 2011
Tuesday, February 1st 2011 8:42 PM
By GetSolar Staff.

Hawaii may be a secluded island paradise – but its remoteness isn’t always an asset. The state has to import nearly all of its fuel from thousands of miles away, so its residents and businesses pay the nation’s highest energy costs.

It’s for that reason that Hawaii has what may be the nation’s most aggressive renewable-energy target. At present, 90 percent of the state’s energy is produced by fossil fuels – but by 2030, state officials hope, 70 percent will come from clean sources. (Renewables are expected to represent 40 percent of Hawaii’s 2030 energy mix, while efficiency improvements will provide the other 30 percent).

As the state looks to go green, solar installations will likely become much more common – already, solar is taking hold as residents and companies look to slash energy spending and reduce their fossil-fuel dependence.

For example, solar installer RevoluSun was recently named Hawaii’s best new small business by Hawaii Business magazine. RevoluSun received the award on January 27 – and company principal Mark Duda said its success has come as a result of solar power’s booming popularity.

“We enable [customers] to confidently do something they wanted to do anyway,” Duda told Hawaii Business.

Commercial-scale installations are cropping up in Hawaii, as well. In mid-January, engineering company Pratt & Whitney – best-known for building jet engines – announced that it would be providing organic Rankine cycle systems in a 5.5-megawatt solar array designed by solar firm Sopogy.

ORC systems trap and concentrate sunlight in solar collectors. The sunlight then heats a fluid, which expands and spins a turbine to produce electricity. The technology’s main advantage is its small size: Unlike utility-scale solar technology like the kind being adopted in California and Nevada, ORC systems can be built on small plots.

Pratt & Whitney’s systems will be installed in the fourth quarter of the year.

In fact, new solar installations can’t come on line fast enough in the Aloha State. The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported January 31 that public schools across Hawaii are in desperate need of air-conditioning systems; only a handful of schools in the state have A/C at present.

Not only is climate-control technology expensive, the newspaper said – in many cases, there simply isn’t enough electricity available to make new systems feasible.

Solar power could help – indeed, it’s likely to have an increasingly larger role in Hawaii’s energy mix in the years to come. 

See original story at:

Renewable Energy World: Concentrating Solar Thermal Power, Distributed

January 16, 2011


January 12, 2011

This is part of a series on distributed renewable energy posted to Renewable Energy World. It originally appeared on Energy Self-Reliant States, a resource of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance’s New Rules Project.

When discussing centralized v. decentralized solar power, there’s an inevitable comparison between solar thermal electric power and solar photovoltaic (PV).  But the fact is that solar thermal power – or concentrating solar power (CSP) – can also be done in a distributed fashion.

In fact, of the 21 operational CSP plants in the world, 18 are smaller than 80 megawatts (MW).  And among operational plants with publicly available capital costs, there’s no clear pattern of lower costs per Watt installed for larger projects.

The common element in thermal concentrating solar power (CSP) is that rather than directly converting sunlight to electricity (solar PV), they concentrate sunlight with mirrors to heat a fluid, and that heat is converted to useful energy.  There are a variety of designs for CSP plants, including parabolic troughstowersStirling dish engines, and Fresnel lenses.  Because three of the four designs (excluding the Stirling dish) generate electricity from steam turbines, the assumption is that bigger is better, capturing more economies of scale.

But the evidence suggests that most economies of scale are captured at a relatively small size.  The adjacent chart explores the cost of CSP plants by size, differentiating plants with storage or natural gas backups from those that are solely solar powered.  Rather than seeing declining costs for scale, we see costs level or increasing.

The poor returns for scale may have to do with the limited economies of scale in heat engines (the tools for converting heat to electricity).  The following chart illustrates the cost functions of several heat engines (including traditional steam turbines, screw motors, Organic Rankine Cycle engines, and piston motors).

As the chart shows, the cost of heat engines per kilowatt (kW) of capacity drops rapidly as size increases up to 1 megawatt (MW).  But beyond that, the economies of scale are much smaller.  For example, there’s only a 100 euro drop in the cost per kW for a steam turbine when increased in size from 2 to 3 MW.  If the turbine represented the entire project cost, the savings from the larger turbine might equate to a 1 cent per kWh drop in the price of electricity from the project over its entire lifetime.  In reality, the turbine is less than 20% of project costs and the savings would be much smaller.

In other words, economies of scale are small for CSP projects, even at relatively small sizes.

Perhaps more interesting than the economies of scale of the heat engines is the difference between traditional steam turbines and Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) turbines.  ORC turbines can operate efficiently at lower temperatures, allowing for a smaller field of solar collectors and for CSP plants to populate areas with lower direct solar irradiance.  The potential to serve a wider geographic area was noted in a recent interview with the CEO of Sopogy, a producer of “microCSP” (1-20 MW power plants) using ORC turbines:

The Sopogy system doesn’t need high DNI (Direct Normal Irradiance)…according to Kimura. [Traditional CSP] needs 7 plus DNI but Sopogy can work at 5 DNI.  That means Sopogy can and is installing systems in the Pacific Northwest, Idaho, the Middle East, Spain and Australia.

In other words, smaller-scale CSP projects may be able to capture most economies of scale and distribute the use of concentrating solar power to areas previously thought uneconomic for concentrating solar.  The smaller scale may also prove advantageous because CSP can provide high efficiency heat for industrial use as well as electricity, reaching significantly higher capacity factors (as with traditional combined-heat-and-power facilities).

Overall, the lesson with CSP seems similar to that of solar PV and wind.  Most economies of scale are captured at smaller sizes, allowing projects to integrate more easily into existing grid infrastructure.

Contact John Farrell at, find more content at or follow @johnffarrell on Twitter

Pacific Business News: Sopogy to get China National Electricity grid work

December 18, 2010

Sopogy, a Honolulu solar power technology company, is planning a 200-megawatt solar thermal project for the China National Utility.

Sopogy is scheduled to sign a memorandum of understanding on Thursday with China’s Yu Hao Long Corp., which designs thermal-energy generators. Terms of the agreement were not immediately available.

The two companies have been collaborating on a 5-megawatt demonstration project at Kalaeloa on Oahu, with plans to scale it up in China. The project would be China’s largest solar installation.

Read more: Sopogy to get China National Utility work | Pacific Business News

Pratt & Whitney Power Systems Receives Order for Two Turboden ORC Systems from Sopogy, Inc.

December 17, 2010

EAST HARTFORD, Conn., Jan. 17, 2011 – Pratt & Whitney Power Systems signed a contract with Sopogy, Inc., of Hawaii for two Turboden Organic Rankine Cycle (ORC) systems. These two units will operate in conjunction with solar collectors that concentrate the sun’s energy to create heat, which is captured by the ORC units to generate electricity. Pratt & Whitney is a United Technologies Corp. (NYSE:UTX) company.

“Combining our Organic Rankine Cycle unit with Sopogy’s solar collectors is a powerful step in energy efficiency,” says Chuck Levey, vice president of sales and marketing, Pratt & Whitney Power Systems. “This duo is an attractive alternative to photovoltaic cells and solar steam plants.”

For this 5.5 MW application in Hawaii, the two Turboden TD 27 HR Organic Rankine Cycle systems will take heat energy from Sopogy’s MicroCSP solar collectors into a receiver tube that will heat up a transfer fluid to create the high-temperature thermal resource. The heated fluid then becomes the fuel to power the ORC units. This is the first application of the PWPS’s ORC systems in this solar-thermal application. Installation is expected to begin during the fourth quarter of 2011.

With Turboden, Pratt & Whitney Power Systems offers a spectrum of ORC products ranging in output power from about 280 kW to about 10 MW of renewable power. The ORC power system employs a closed-cycle process that uses relatively low- to moderate-temperature heat resources to generate electricity. These ORC systems are driven by a simple evaporation process and are entirely enclosed, which means they produce virtually no emissions.

PWPS is also an industry leader in providing solutions to the power generation market through its industrial gas turbines and aftermarket services. Its gas turbines serve as mobile, easily-assembled and highly-efficient power generation systems. These systems can deliver as much as 60 MW of safe electric power. PWPS has installed more than 2,000 industrial gas turbines in more than 50 countries worldwide.

Pratt & Whitney is a world leader in the design, manufacture and service of aircraft engines, space propulsion systems and industrial gas turbines. United Technologies, based in Hartford, Conn., is a diversified company providing high technology products and services to the global aerospace and commercial building industries.