Category Archives: Performance

Solarbee performance either positive or negative

Blue-green Algae Alert Issued for Blue Lake

In April of this year Metro approved the purchase of 3 SolarBees® for permanent placement on Blue Lake.  The units had been in continuous operation for the previous 24 month during a trial on the Lake.  The Oregonian recently reported …

By Lynne Terry, The Oregonian

October 14, 2009, 5:04PM

This is not a good time to go for a brisk swim in Blue Lake east of Portland — and not just because of the weather.

The popular lake on Northeast Marine Drive is contaminated with toxins.

Recent tests show that the lake, which draws 300,000 people a year, has dangerous levels of blue-green algae.

Scott Paskill,  manager of the area for Metro, the regional agency that manages part of the lake, said the lake was covered with a scum a few days ago but he said that conditions appear to be improving.

Officials have posted signs around the lake, warning people to stay away from the water and not to fish.

Blue-green algae flourish in warm weather and also when the seasons change, producing toxins that can contaminate fish and the water.

It is dangerous to eat shellfish or crayfish from tainted water, and officials recommend that the fat, skin and organs be removed from other fish before eating.

Contaminated water can irritate the skin as well and cause nausea, diarrhea and even liver damage. Children and pets are especially susceptible.

In August, high blue-green algae levels in Elk Creek in southern Oregon killed as many as four dogs, which suffered convulsions and died quickly after frolicking in the water during visits with their owners.

Paskill is not concerned about that happening at Blue Lake.

“We don’t allow pets in the park,” he said, “and no one is using the park right now.”

A month or two ago, when the weather was warmer, it would have been a different story.

Covering 64 acres,  the lake is a popular fishing and swimming spot in summer for Portland-area residents.

Still, about 300 people live in the Fairview neighborhood, about 15 miles from downtown Portland. Paskill said they have been informed about the algae.

“It’s not like it’s the middle of summer,” he said, “but we do have to notify the public.”

For more information, call the state’s harmful algae program at 971-673-0400 or visit this Web page:

— Lynne Terry


Filed under Algae Bloom, Performance, Solarbees, Water Quality

Something’s in the Air: Water Odor the Focus

Berthoud Recorder
By Shari Phiel

Berthoud’s water quality has once again come to the forefront of concerns for local residents. For the past few weeks, Town staff have fielded about 30 calls a day from Berthoud citizens concerned about a noxious odor and taste in their water.

At the Tuesday, Aug. 25 Board of Trustees meeting at Town Hall, numerous residents voiced their concerns to their elected officials about the problem. Like many, Berthoud citizen Billie Norris said she disliked “paying for something I’m not getting.”

Gary Suiter, the interim Town administrator, said staff are working to resolve the issue. Suiter noted the Town has recently contracted with CDM Engineering to “perform an evaluation” of the Berthoud water treatment system and provide feedback and recommendations for any changes that can be put in place.

The interim administrator also noted that Berthoud’s Public Works Department has completed about 30 water tests from various residences and all have tested safe to drink. He also contacted the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment to confirm the test results.

But what is causing the bad odor and taste? The problem seems to stem from algae growth at local reservoirs. An Aug. 14 analysis of waterborne particulates found Anabaena, an algae known for its fetid smell, present in Berthoud water. Carter Lake area resident Mick Shupe noted the smell is particularly bad in that area. He suggested the Town look at introducing “Grass Carp,” which are algae eaters, to the lake.

“This is a universal problem,” said Suiter, noting that according to the public health department, many other communities have faced similar problems. One recommendation from public health was to use copper sulfate during water treatment. However, the idea of adding even more chemicals to Berthoud’s water did not find favor with residents attending the meeting.

Trustee Michael Patrick noted algae particulates had been a problem in Berthoud in past years but the addition of SolarBees four years ago seemed to have addressed the problem.

Per the SolarBee Web site, these devices use “patented near laminar radial flow technology that provides high-flow, long-distance circulation in water reservoirs.” Unfortunately, no system is fool proof and environmental changes can generate algae blooms beyond the SolarBees abilities to control.

Esther Vincent with the Northern Colorado Water Conservancy District’s Colorado-Big Thompson nutrient project said Wednesday she was surprised to hear residents had concerns about algae blooms at Carter Lake. Vincent toured Carter Lake on Wednesday, Aug. 26 but found no algae blooms present.

She proposed the problem may not be coming from Carter Lake but from the holding pond where Berthoud water is stored. Vincent explained water is fed via pipe from Carter Lake into a shallow retention pond, which is the same pond where the SolarBees were installed. Algae blooms are a more prevalent issue in shallow water than at deeper lakes.

For Berthoud residents with concerns about their water, Suiter suggested the contact the Town’s public works staff and request water samples if necessary.

Residents with water discoloration, which sometimes occurs when the water system and hydrants are flushed, can pick up Rover Rust Remover, a sodium bisulphite powder, at Town Hall.

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Tufts University SolarBees® Inafective on Milfoil

SolarBee on Lake Cochituate

SolarBee on Lake Cochituate

Tufts University scientists presented a paper at the NE Aquatic Plant Management Society meeting in Stowe, VT this January titled “Effectiveness of Solar Powered Water Circulators for Reducing Eurasian Milfoil Growth in a Recreational Lake”. They concluded that the SolarBees® had no measureable impact on Eurasian Milfoil populations in the lake.

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Mill Pond Problems May Have Been Caused by Efforts to Prevent Algae

“High levels of phosphorus suspended in the waters of Mill Pond is being blamed for a massive algae bloom that killed thousands of fish, and now the Southampton Town Trustees say water-agitating devices they approved for use may have created the problem. The Trustees stopped short of blaming the die off on the devices, called SolarBees, but said at a meeting on Tuesday that water samples taken by scientists from the US Geological Survey showed a spike in phosphorus last summer. They fear the Solarbees may have stirred up phosphorus that has settled to the lakebottom over may years fueling the immense bloom observed just before the die off.

Trustee Semlear said Solarbees were in the pond in 2007 but were not working properly at that time. They were sucking up weeds and plant material from the bottom of the pond. They were installed again in the spring of 2008.”

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Lake Champlain Claims ‘No Evidence’


The Vermont Agency of Natural Resources, in cooperation with the St. Albans Area Watershed Association, conducted a study of the effectiveness of SolarBees® water circulators in reducing algae blooms at the northern end of St. Albans Bay, Lake Champlain during 2007. The study found no evidence that the SolarBees® reduced algal concentrations, improved water clarity, or inhibited blue-green algae in St. Albans Bay. The treatment goal of producing an approximately 100-acre zone of clear, low-algae water at the northern end of St. Albans Bay was not achieved by the SolarBees® deployment.


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Council votes to remove circulators from Foster City’s lagoons

FOSTER CITY — Say goodbye to the “space junk.”

The city’s lagoons soon will be free of the solar-powered water circulators that have incensed many residents. After receiving dozens of angry e-mails and phone calls, the City Council voted 3-2 Monday night to terminate its trial of the cumbersome contraptions just two months in.

The city could still be stuck with the $70,000 bill for the six- month rental of the circulators, called SolarBees, which were intended to replace chemicals as a means of combating harmful algae. A report from the North Dakota-based manufacturer suggested that the devices were working — but that wasn’t the issue.

Like many others, Mayor Ron Cox was turned off by the aesthetics. “Once I saw them in the water, I truly don’t think they belong in the lagoons,” Cox said before casting the deciding vote to remove them immediately.

The decision was a victory for the waterfront property owners who have opposed the cumbersome contraptions from the moment they laid eyes on them in March. Several argued that the SolarBees were “a solution worse than the problem” of stagnant water.

Foster City has historically used chemicals to control algae blooms, which stifle animal life in the lagoons. The SolarBees were presented as an environmentally friendly alternative, but residents argued they hurt property values and posed a hazard to boaters.

“They’re a blight and an eyesore,” said resident Dennis Stanwoood, drawing cheers from a large audience.

Former Foster City Mayor Marland Townsend said his beef was with the process by which the city decided to install the circulators. He said the city had failed to search for alternatives to the devices or explain their purpose in a way that residents could understand.

“I have not seen this community this aroused over something in a long time,” Townsend said.

Councilwoman Linda Koelling took an unpopular stand in favor of leaving the SolarBees in for the duration of the six-month trial. She said the city will eventually be forced to stop dumping chemicals into the water, and it needs to be prepared with alternatives when that happens.

Part of the purpose of the test period was to gather data about the water quality in the lagoons.

Fellow Councilwoman Pam Frisella proposed a compromise of removing the SolarBees by July 1, so that they’d be gone before the Fourth of July. Several residents had said they were worried someone could get hurt by running into one of the circulators during the festivities, when the lagoon is crowded with boats.

But council members John Kiramis and Rick Wykoff were adamant that the devices be removed as soon as possible, and Cox cast his vote with them.

SolarBee representative Sandy Walker said she had never seen such a vehement reaction to the circulators. She said they’ve been a big success in Mountain View’s Shoreline Sailing Lake.

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SolarBees® Caught Hauling Zebra Mussels


The company that manufactures these units was caught by an alert Minnesota weight station employee as they attempted to transport thousand of zebra mussels attached to this unit across the state.  This is illegal in many states.  From the Television Report on Channel 5 Minneapolis: A Minnesota weigh station inspector made a big save for the environment Saturday.

The inspector on duty at a St. Croix weigh station caught a truck that was weighted down with thousands of zebra mussels.

“I’ve never heard of a call like this, it was a pretty alert employee at the scale,” said Lt. John Hunt, of the Minnesota DNR Enforcement Division.

Ten thousand zebra mussels covered a pump being hauled from Vermont to North Dakota. The inspector called police and the state impounded the truck and ordered it to be washed.

“Never seen anything like this before,” said truck cleaner Jesse Opine.

It is illegal in Minnesota to transport zebra mussels. The state wants to stop the spread because the invasive species pushes out the native ones.

“They are more powerful, breed quicker and they just take over,” said Lt. Hunt.

The pump that was infested with the mussels was used to suck algae from lakes and reservoirs.

The owner of Solar Bee told 5 EYEWITNESS NEWS, “We are an environmental company and never wanted to transport an invasive species.”

The North Dakota company apologized to the state and is making procedural changes due to this incident.


North Dakota company fined for illegally transporting zebra mussels (August 5, 2008)

A North Dakota company that had its zebra-mussel-infested trailer impounded in Minnesota last fall has been fined by the Vermont Agency of Natural Resources.

SolarBee Inc., a Dickinson, North Dakota-based firm, agreed July 21 to pay a $300 fine and $1,000 for a supplemental environmental project to Vermont for illegally transporting zebra mussels in that state. The company was fined $250 last October for illegally transporting the invasive species in Minnesota.

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Solarbees Won’t Be Returning To Bay

The controversial solar devices used for the past two years in an effort to control weeds on Monona Bay won’t be returning next year. “There just wasn’t any evidence the SolarBees were doing anything for us,” said Genesis Bichanich, a water resource specialist with the city of Madison’s engineering department.

The city first used the floating water circulators in a free trial in 2005, but data on their effectiveness was inconclusive, Bichanich said. This year, the city rented the devices for about $75,000, and could have applied 60 percent of the rental fee to the $225,000 cost of purchasing them.

Five SolarBees were placed in Monona Bay, and a sixth one was positioned in a triangle formed by the railroad trestle and bridge over John Nolen Drive.

The 16-foot-wide, solar-powered machines — which suck water from the bottom of the lake up through a tube and distribute it on the surface over an area of up to 50 acres — were designed to attack blue-green algae by circulating water and disrupting the habitat.

Some residents around the bay were optimistic the SolarBees could help eliminate smelly, and sometimes toxic, blue-green algae blooms, as well as reduce weeds and improve water clarity.

But the state Department of Natural Resources and UW-Madison faculty warned they could actually create algae blooms by stirring up nutrients in the water.

Jeff Swiggum, a member of Friends of Monona Bay who lives off of the bay on Lakeside Street and walks by it each day on his way to work, said he was “rather ambivalent” about the SolarBees.

“There was no real good data prior to their placement,” Swiggum said. “There were a lot of weeds out there this year. Could there have been more had we not had SolarBees? We don’t know.”

Swiggum said he’s not upset to see them go.

“There may be some people who look at the SolarBees as finally, the city is doing something. It may be more symbolic. … On the other hand, there were a lot of people who felt they were a big waste of money,” he said, adding that some residents saw the devices as “big ugly thing collecting bird feces.”

“Maybe having weeds in the bay is not such a bad idea,” Swiggum said. “Without weeds, it can just become an algal cesspool.”

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SolarBees® Removed from Lake Steilacoom

SolarBees® aeration systems were sold to the City of Lakewood with the promise of solving a water quality and toxic algae problem that has plagued this lake for years. They were removed and returned to the company after a on year trial. The president of the lake association indicated that they failed to meet 8 of 10 performance promises.


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