solar thermal electric

Sopogy opens “world’s first MicroCSP™ solar thermal plant”

The Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii was the setting for the inauguration of what its creators describe as “the world’s first MicroCSP™ solar thermal plant” this week. The 2-MW thermal energy project covers almost 4 acres of the hot Kona desert and comprises 1,000 Sopogy proprietary MicroCSP™ solar panels.

Founded in 2002, Sopogy specialises in MicroCSP™ solar technologies, which “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 solar system comprises parabolic troughs with integrated sun trackers, which the company claims achieve higher efficiencies than conventional solar panels. The system also uses a unique thermal energy storage buffer that allows energy to be produced during cloudy periods and to shift energy produced from the day to evening periods.

“MicroCSP™ is an achievement in rugged, modular and cost effective solar thermal technology,” said Darren T. Kimura, President and CEO of Sopogy, Inc. “The completion and demonstration of this 2-MW solar thermal project is an important first step in bringing the solution to the world.”

With the completion of the Holaniku Project – the name of which comes from the Hawaiian term for a location that has everything required for self-sufficiency – Sopogy now has eight solar thermal energy facilities operating around the world. Its MicroCSP™ technologies are being used to provide process heat, solar air conditioning and now power.

Helping to achieve Hawaii's clean energy goals

The Holaniku Project is one of a number of renewables projects that have been attracted to the island since the start of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative last year. The US state has now become a magnet for renewable energy projects, and Sopogy and its local solar development partner, Keahole Solar Power, aim to develop 30 MW of MicroCSP™ power in the state by 2015.

Hawaii’s governor Linda Lingle announced a comprehensive agreement to decisively move the state away from fossil fuels for electricity and ground transportation and toward renewable energy back in October, which Lingle declared would move Hawaii “to the forefront in energy leadership in the nation”.

The agreement was signed by the Hawaiian Administration, including the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism and the State Consumer Advocate, and the Hawaiian Electric companies as part of the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative which aims to move Hawaii toward having 70% of its energy coming from clean energy sources by 2030.

"This is a detailed plan to implement the Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative with sweeping changes that are needed to reduce our dependence on imported fossil fuel and to achieve a more secure energy and economic future," said Governor Lingle. "I feel strongly that the state and our major utility can and must continue finding common ground in moving forward and taking decisive and bold steps toward an energy-independent Hawaii".

The agreement includes, among others: a commitment to integrate around 1,100 MW of already identified additional renewable energy into the Hawaiian electricity grid (700 MW to be implemented within five years); the laying down of an undersea cable connecting Maui, Molokai and Lānai to allow an additional 400 MW of wind power generated in Maui County to be transmitted to Oahu; a doubling of the current Renewable Portfolio Standard, whereby 40% of electric power must come from renewable resources by 2030; and a succulent feed-in tariff.

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