State Officials To Scrap SolarBee Project On Jordan Lake

May 6, 2016

State to nix SolarBee project
Credit Medora Corporation

The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality announced it will halt the SolarBee pilot project, saying the floating mixers are not improving water quality in Jordan Lake.

Launched two years ago, the SolarBee project was intended to prevent the growth of algae in the lake. But state officials say there’s been no significant improvement in water quality.

Environmental advocates agree.

Dustin Chicurel-Bayard, director of communications for the North Carolina Sierra Club, said the project has been a waste of time and money.

“Over a million dollars of taxpayer money has been wasted at this point, and during the time of the pilot project, more pollution has flowed into the lake,” Chicurel-Bayard said.

Environmental advocates want the Legislature to reinstate the Jordan Lake rules, which mandate upstream pollution controls to keep nutrient run-off from reaching the lake in the first place.

Officials with North Dakota-based Medora Corporation, maker of the SolarBees, say the mixers are effective at controlling algae growth.

“We have a team out there six months a year testing water quality almost every day,” said Ken Hudnell, the company’s director of science. “We're collecting a lot more data than DEQ.”

Jordan Lake’s extensive watershed includes many parts of the Triad and supplies drinking water to much of western Wake County.

Other Solarbee projects in New York, Washington, and on Lake Howell in North Carolina were deemed unsuccessful and discontinued. A project on Lake Houston in Texas has worked to help with water odor and taste.

The state Environmental Management Commission will meet on May 11 to discuss the latest report on pollution control in Jordan Lake.