Chapel Hill News

July 18, 2014

SolarBee experiment to deploy on Jordan Lake on Tuesday

Crews next week will load 36 large machines into Jordan Lake, according to Ken Hudnell, a leader of the project.

A Jordan Lake experiment will begin with a splash Tuesday.

Crews will load 36 large machines into the lake – part of a stationary, solar-powered fleet that will circulate water in an effort to clear algae from the huge regional reservoir.

The state legislature last year offered up Medora Corp.’s SolarBee machine as a technological solution to improve water quality in Jordan Lake. At the same time, legislators again delayed potentially costly environmental rules meant to keep algae-feeding nutrients from flowing into the lake.

Ken Hudnell, an employee of Medora and a former federal toxicologist, argues that governments have long ignored the potential to clean lakes with technologies such as the SolarBee. He thinks that carefully pumping water can disrupt unwanted algae growth.

This is the largest-ever deployment of the device. Hudnell claims successes in scores of earlier projects, though in some cases their efficacy was disputed.

Some environmentalist groups have criticized the $1.44 million project as a red herring, saying the state should instead focus on the long-debated and long-delayed environmental rules, which included a strong focus on runoff control.

If the two-year pilot project on Jordan Lake works, the state government may expand it significantly. For now, the 850-pound machines will be kept near the inlets of Morgan Creek and the Haw River.

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