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SolarBee Gets Busy on Wastewater Treatment

SolarBee\'s solar powered aerators can reduce energy use by sewage treatment plants.SolarBee, the North Dakota company that has made a name for itself with solar-powered circulators to improve water quality in ponds and lakes, has developed solar equipment for wastewater treatment plants as well.  The devices could have a huge impact on electricity consumption at thousands of wastewater plants in the U.S. alone, without the need for costly retrofits.  A SolarBee unit requires only 36 watts to operate, and it improves the treatment process while replacing up to 25,000 watts of grid-connected equipment with sustainable solar power.


Wastewater Treatment and Solar Energy

Wastewater treatment plants are ideal hosts for solar installations on a grand scale.  The typical treatment plant features large unroofed tanks that receive full sunlight all day.  Wastewater treatment plants serve every city and town in the country, as well as commercial facilities such as food processors.  Massive amounts of on-grid electricity are required to power the pumps and other equipment that circulate wastewater through a treatment plant, making them ripe candidates for green stimulus funding through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

SolarBee and Water Quality

SolarBee (a wholly owned subsidiary of Medora Environmental Inc.) is known for its pioneering work in developing solar-powered equipment for improving water quality by raising the oxygen levels in lakes, estuaries, stormwater retention ponds, and other reservoirs.  SolarBee units provide a sustainable alternative to conventional aeration pumps that are powered by on-grid electricity.  In April 2009, SolarBee was named 6th among the top 50 water companies in the world by The Artemis Project, in recognition of its innovative contributions to water quality.

SolarBee and Wastewater Treatment

The new focus on wastewater treatment actually brings SolarBee full circle to its roots.  The company initially developed the solar powered long distance circulation concept for small wastewater ponds in 1998 before expanding to freshwater lakes and reservoirs.  As applied to wastewater treatment, SolarBee’s improved circulation system can help reduce problems related to algae, suspended solids, pH imbalance, ammonia, and nitrification, while also improving phosphorus removal, reducing odors, and reducing sludge buildup.  Each unit includes an on-board battery enabling it to operate continuously, day and night.

Wastewater Treatment and Sustainable Energy

SolarBee represents just one aspect of a movement to get more bang out of wastewater treatment plants.  The recovery of methane gas, ingredients for low-emission fuel, and microbe-generated electricity are three other examples.  Despite their massive size and ubiquity, treatment plants are among the most overlooked and all but invisible parts of our existing infrastructure, but all that appears about to change: a vast, sustainable, and flexible energy resource has been right under our noses all the time.

Image: oxyman on wikimedia commons via flickr.

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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