Sopogy has lined up a developer and the money to build a 50-megawatt farm in Spain, the largest project to-date for the micro-thermal company.

Honolulu-based Sopogy is teaming with Inypsa Informes y Proyectos and Omniwatt to build the project in Toledo in central Spain. Inypsa from Spain will develop the project while Omniwatt from Germany will fund it. Sopogy declined to disclose the project cost.

The project is a big deal for Sopogy, which takes a different approach to solar thermal than most of its competitors. Instead of building 300 plus megawatt farms with industrial-scale equipment, it makes rooftop solar thermal systems that can also be used to build moderately-sized power plants.

It's building a 1-megawatt system, called Keahole Solar Power, at the Natural Energy Laboratory, a state research agency on the Big Island of Hawaii. The state approved a $10 million bond in July 2007 for the project.

Unlike a solar electric system that uses panels to harness the sun's light, a solar-thermal system makes use of the sun's heat to generate electricity. A solar-thermal project uses mirrors to reflect the sunlight for heating fluids and generating steam, which is then piped to run the generator.

While solar panels can be mounted on a building rooftop, solar-thermal equipment generally requires hundreds of acres: solar thermal farms are typically erected in sparsely populated areas with intense direct sun. Several companies are developing solar-thermal farms in the deserts of western states (see Ausra to Build 177-Megawatt Solar-Thermal Plant and Abengoa Q&A: Heating Up the Solar-Thermal Market). Applications for over 24-gigawatts of solar thermal plants in California alone have already been filed.

Sopogy's technology shrinks the traditional size of a solar-thermal power plant and cuts the costs of the basic components. The company uses aluminum instead of mirrors for its trough-shaped collectors to reduce weight and make them easier to clean, Sopogy said.

The aluminum collectors can also be shipped flat when unassembled, which cuts down on transportation costs, Sopogy said. It additionally uses off-the-shelf rails and prefabricated arms to shave costs.

The small size of a Sopogy system makes it suitable for commercial rooftop installations in tens or hundreds of kilowatts, the company said. The company is focusing on building power plants in the 10-megawatt to 50-megawatt range, however, said Zeina Jafar, a Sopogy spokeswoman.

The 50-megawatt project in Spain is scheduled for completion by December 2010.

Hawaii approved a $35 million bond earlier this year to fund a 10-megawatt project in Oahu for Hawaii Electric Co., using Sopogy's equipment.

The company's CEO Darren Kimura told the Pacific Business News last month that Sopogy expected to generate $10 million in revenue this year.