Hawaiian Micro Solar Thermal Startup Sopogy Breaks Ground

The small-scale solar thermal startup Sopogy, which we reported just raised $9 million from investors including the investment vehicle of eBay founder Pierre Omidyar, Ohana Holdings, says that it started construction on one of its solar power farms on Hawaii’s Big Island at the Natural Energy Laboratory of Hawaii. The systems, named Keahole Solar Power, will be built in phases, the first of which will generate electricity for just 100 Hawaiian homes; the fully completed project could be as large as 1 megawatt, to power 500 homes.

That’s still relatively small compared to many of the massive solar power plants that are being slated for the deserts of the U.S. Southwest. Unlike those huge systems, the five-year-old, Honolulu-based company uses smaller, “micro-” sized systems that can be used where space is limited. The systems are small enough to be used even on rooftops, and deliver on a scale in the single megawatts. Each individual collector can produce 500 watts, and the collectors can be strung together for more wattage.

Sopogy says its solar farm on the Big Island is the first to make “large-scale use” of its solar technology and will be built in phases, over several acres. Darren Kimura, Sopogy CEO, said in the company’s release that the systems installed are also stronger and more durable than competitors’ solar thermal technology so that the farms can survive Hawaiian storms and heat.