When Sopogy boss Darren Kimura advises you to “watch your hand on that pipe, it gets hot real quick,” he’s not kidding. The pipe in question is being instantly and effectively heated by something 93 million miles away.
Enough solar radiation hits Earth in an hour to power our energy needs for a year. That’s easy to believe when you’re on the burningly hot roof of Sopogy’s office at Honolulu International Airport. It’s equally easy to admire the glinting elegance of the parabolic SopoHelios solar collector that will soon form part of an array powering the whole building’s air conditioning system.
Manually tipping the demonstration collector’s aluminum trough into a light-catching angle instantly casts an ethereal silver light onto the center tube, which contains a heat transfer liquid. Functioning units automatically track the sun. Heated liquid can be transferred into heating units or used to generate energy for industrial scale applications like air con or desalination plants.
Big Sopogy installations are already running in California, Mexico, Texas, and Abu Dhabi. There’s a 2-megawatt installation on the Big Island, but even that will soon be eclipsed by Hawaii’s biggest Concentrating Solar Power project with storage, a 9,520-panel array on O’ahu generating a hefty 5Mw.
The real beauty of the lightweight SopoHelios unit is in its appeal to smaller industrial, commercial, or utilities markets that can benefit from the economics enjoyed by large solar power stations. The collector’s “build as you grow” design eases the flow of finance and permits for these users. Not many are needed, either: it takes fewer than 10 to power up a 10-ton air con system.
It’s a wonderfully elegant, multi-award-winning solution – and it’s all done with mirrors. www.sopogy.com