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Sopogy CEO Shifts to Marketing, SunEdison Exec Named COO

Sopogy Inc., the closely held Hawaiian solar-thermal technology company, brought in an executive from investor MEMC Electronic Materials Inc. to oversee day-to-day operations as founder and Chief Executive Officer Darren Kimura shifts to a new role.

David Fernandez, former vice president of North American operations at MEMC’s SunEdison solar project development unit, was named president and chief operating officer, the Honolulu-based company said in a statement today.

Sopogy will “really benefit from a pure execution specialist,” Kimura said in an interview today. “From my perspective this is a big positive for the company.”

Kimura, who describes himself as a serial entrepreneur, will become chief global strategist and chief marketing officer of the company he founded in 2002.

Sopogy has yet to appoint a replacement for Kimura’s positions as chairman and CEO, Tsurumi Hamasu, a spokeswoman, said today by e-mail.

Sopogy technology includes mirrored troughs to focus the sun’s energy on tubes filled with fluid, helping drive turbines that generate electricity or creating heat that can be used for enhanced oil recovery or manufacturing.

The company has shifted now primarily to heat generation, away from power generation, after the price of photovoltaic panels fell nearly 60 percent in the past two years, Kimura said.

Sopogy sees an addressable market for its technology of about $20 billion in the U.S. Kimura estimated that businesses spend about $7 per million British Thermal Units for natural gas to produce heat. Sopogy’s technology delivers solar-heated water for about $4 to $6 per mmBtu.

“We’ve really done a good job carving out a good niche for or technology for process heat and steam,” Kimura said. “Now it’s about making it better.”

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