NDTO News Article

Dickinson-based SolarBee making waves in global marketplace

It wasn’t until Greg Dluzak turned to a Dickinson, N.D., company that he began to win back control of a major Southern California water source.

Seasonal onslaughts of blue-green algae in Palmdale Lake would turn the drinking water supply murky, sometimes smelly and it clogged filter systems, said Dluzak, the Palmdale Water District production and control superintendent.

Until the Water District turned to Dickinson-based SolarBee, its only recourse in combating harmful algae was to dump thousand of pounds of copper sulfate into the lake. The treatments were expensive and offered only short-term relief from algae blooms, Dluzak said.

It was four years ago, Dluzak said, that the Water District first lowered a few of SolarBee’s solar-powered water circulators into Palmdale Lake on a trial basis.

“We began to see results right away and within a few months we had some good data and could tell the units were really helping out,” he said.

This year, the Palmdale Water District has seven of the floating solar-powered circulators strategically located throughout the 234-acre lake, a water source for 92,000 customers.

“Their units really do work and Solar Bee is a great company to work with,” Dluzak said. “I wish I could get that level of service from all my vendors.”

The floating, solar-powered water circulators look like something out of a science fiction movie, but there’s nothing mysterious about how they work.

Depending on the model, SolarBee circulators can draw up to 10,000 gallons of water per minute from the lower depths and spread it far across the surface. The circulators can draw water from more than 100 feet below the surface or from less than two feet. Their mixing action accelerates the biological and chemical processes that dramatically improve water quality.

By circulating water columns, toxic blue-green algae lose their preferred habitat of stagnant waters. Zooplankton and beneficial algae are allowed to regain their rightful place in the food chain.

Studies show that SolarBee’s circulators eliminate blue-green algae blooms, they help prevent fish kills and can improve the taste and odor of drinking water supplies. Water clarity in ponds, lakes and reservoirs improves and their ecosystems become healthier.

The solar-powered circulators stand about three feet above the surface of the water. The circulators require little maintenance and can be equipped with battery kits for 24-hour operation even in low sunlight conditions.

Since first installed for lake restoration in 2000, more than 900 SolarBee circulators have been towed into water bodies throughout North America, SolarBee International Business Director Chris Harris said.

Pump Systems Inc., a complete supplier of fluid-handling equipment, engineered its first solar-powered circulator and created its SolarBee subsidiary to help customers who were growing frustrated with costly and less-effective means of controlling blue-green algae, Harris said.

Today, SolarBee employs 60 workers at its Dickinson manufacturing plant and six branches offices throughout the United States.

“SolarBee is the only proven alternative to costly chemicals in treating blue-green algae,” Harris said “They are environment friendly, affordable and the most effective way to improve water quality.”

With the help of the North Dakota Trade Office, SolarBee is expanding its sales throughout the world, Harris said.

SolarBee partnered with six distributors during a trade mission to Australia and New Zeeland in March. The company also is exporting to China, Canada, South Africa, the United Kingdom, Denmark, Ecuador and several other countries, he said.

“Historically, our export sales have been pretty much reactive,” Harris said. “Now we’re becoming proactive and it is very exciting to witness the response from the international market.”