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Sopogy in CSP Today
Interview with Darren Kimura, President and CEO, Sopogy

Published on Jul 29, 2008

“Many of smaller solar farms don’t receive prominent headlines”

For a company known for pioneering a new approach to concentrating solar power (CSP) called MicroCSP, Sopogy continues to make steady progress.

In the recent past, Hawaii-based Sopogy has introduced the new SopoNova 4, combining features of its MicroCSP Parabolic Trough technology that includes modularity, customised tracking, efficient shipping, storm protection, and automatic operation. In another development, work for building Keahole Solar Power, a CSP solar farm described as the first of its kind in the world, got underway. This project will make large-scale use of Sopogy’s proprietary technology.

As for future, Sopogy has set a big target and has already charted out a map for the same.

“We want to see our revenues at $1 billion in five years,” Darren Kimura, president and chief executive, Sopogy told CSPToday.com.

Kimura, who is scheduled to speak during CSPToday’s second CSP Summit US scheduled to take place in San Francisco on 30th September – 1st October this year, said his company is focusing on distributed generation markets. This translates into many smaller projects in which Sopogy uses its CSP collectors for power, heat and A/C.

“To achieve this, we must ramp our manufacturing quickly, keep our speed to installation cycles short and continue to have excellent quality control thus keeping our customers happy,” shared Kimura.

As for MicroCSP, it is described as a highly modular and scalable technology that is particularly suitable for distributed generation in the range of 250kW – 20 MW. The smaller scale MicroCSP systems allow for deployment in areas where only acres or tens of acres of land are available, rather than the hundreds or even thousands of acres required for its larger scale counterpart.

Sopogy’s approach is 100 percent focused on low first cost of the collector. According to Kimura, the company is studying and inventing new ways to make the collector faster with high precision, assembly cheaply and operation with low operation and maintenance.

“All our IP is around these key areas,” he said.

MicroCSP systems use reflectors and optics that harness the energy from the sun to create heat that passes through a turbine to produce electricity. In terms of its utility, for instance with reference to the recent Keahole Solar Power project in Hawaii, the company says its technology combines the efficiencies of traditional CSP collectors but incorporates new key elements that are required for operation in Hawaii.

These elements include a stronger more durable frame that is able to withstand against storms and operating temperatures that enable Hawaii’s contractors to install and service the system.

Overall, in the context of short project timelines and quick paybacks, on-site CSP systems are becoming larger area of attention.

Kimura categorically stated MicroCSP technologies serve a need.

“We bring the economics of large scale CSP technologies to the distributed generation markets.  The world need both large CSP solar farms to compete with Coal and Nuclear energy and small MicroCSP to compete with Natural Gas and Diesel fired generation.  Companies in both areas will become massive capitalistic forces,” pointed out Kimura.

Among the relatively recent developments in the solar thermal power industry, there is one related to solar panels being planned at some height to convert solar energy into electricity. It is being said that such technology reduces the cost drastically and the harnessing of solar power becomes economically viable and is pollution free.

Commenting on the same, Kimura said, “We need all these solar technologies to reduce in cost, improve in efficiencies and demonstrate long life to solve these global energy issues we collectively face.  After serving in my 16 year career focused on energy and 14 as an energy entrepreneur, I have come to appreciate that energy companies understand magnitude of the energy problem and work together to find solutions  vs. competing as commonly seen in other industries.”

He added, “MicroCSP will continue to gain traction at the end user level. We will find major corporate understand that MicroCSP is providing conservation effects similar to a Compact Fluorescent Lamp provides conservation to the standard Edison base Incandescent lamp.”

From opportunities perspective, it is being said that regulators in 29 states and the District of Columbia are forcing utilities to boost the use of renewable energy to run electric plants. California has been among the most aggressive, with the state’s three investor-owned utilities required to get 20 percent of power from renewables by the end of 2010.

In such scenario, how does Kimura foresees renewable energy especially CSP progressing in future?

“Solar Renewable Energy Carve outs are necessary to balance utility loads.  Few states have these and more must follow.  Solar energy is a resource utilities appreciate with predictable loads, expected curves and reliable technologies,” he said. “Renewable energy needs all the support it can get. More market adoption means that more technologies achieve critical mass and become cheaper.  On-site renewable generation is the logical next step as you eliminate transmission and distribution issues that are facing big wind and solar farms in remote locations and you can directly address demand side needs. On-site RE is the next frontier in on-site generation.”

Sopogy is currently working on numerous substantial projects and will be making announcements as they develop into a significant event.

Kimura says the industry is witnessing lots of focus on CSP in the large solar project deployment. Many of the smaller solar farms are gaining customer traction but don’t receive as many prominent headlines, he feels.

CSPtoday’s 2nd CSP Summit US

Darren Kimura, president and chief executive,Sopogy is scheduled to speak during CSPToday’s second CSP Summit US scheduled to take place in San Francisco on 30th September – 1st October this year.

For more info, click here: http://www.csptoday.com/us/programme.shtml

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