SolarBee buzzing around the globeA swarm of “bees” have overtaken the Pan American Games in Mexico — luckily, a local business put them there to help.
By: Klark Byrd, The Dickinson Press
A swarm of “bees” have overtaken the Pan American Games in Mexico — luckily, a local business put them there to help.
Dickinson-based business SolarBee Inc. supplied the equipment that made many of the water sports possible at this week’s international event.
A SolarBee is a floating, solar-powered water circulator that draws in liquid from below the surface and disperses it across the top of the water.
The bees are used to clean up blue-green algae on Lake Zapotlán near the city of Guzmán, Jalisco, the host
site of the rowing and canoeing
“Blue-green algae can cause a terrible stink and can actually be toxic,” SolarBee President Joel Bleth said. “We are basically there to clean it up.”
There are 20 bees on the lake and each unit can directly clear about 35 acres of water, Bleth said. Each day, every 850-pound unit processes about the same amount of water that is consumed daily by a city the size of Fargo, Bleth added.
Some of the components of the bees are manufactured in other places, but the units are engineered, assembled and shipped from the warehouse in Dickinson.
Having the bees at the Pan Am games is a plan that has been in the works for a few years.
Gonzalo Sotelo Acosta, the general director of the dealer company Makisur of Mexico, said the bees were installed about four months ago after state Gov. Emilio Gonz called for cleanup around the lake.
Chris Harris, vice president of SolarBee International Business in Fargo, said the company distributes to dealers, who then get the product to the customer.
“This particular dealer did a good job working with this project over several years, in fact, because they have had concerns about contamination of the lake and condition of the lake, especially around the Pan Am Games,” he said. “There was a lot of discussion about how to clear it up, and luckily SolarBee was chosen.”
Alternative treatments for algae would likely have been chemicals, which only sustain short periods and pose environmental risks, Harris said.
Acosta describes SolarBee’s results on Zapotlán as “remarkable,” stating there is no odor and that clarity has increased from 6 centimeters to 35 centimeters on the lake.
This isn’t the first time SolarBee has been the proponent of an international sporting event, Harris said. The company has shipped units to over 20 countries, including a body of water in Hungary used for an annual fishing tournament and a yachting club lake in South Africa, but the work on Zapotlán is “the biggest, without a doubt.”
Bleth said the prices for the products vary depending on the system, but it is always a benefit to do business with other nations.
“It is always great to see a big project in a nearby country, so it is exciting,” he said.
Over 40 nations are competing in 36 sports at the Pan American competition that concludes on Sunday. This is the third time that Mexico has hosted the games, which is the most of any nation.