"Solar Bees Earns St. Helens a State Award"
St. Helens' Solar Bee project took home an Oregon Leaders Award. The award recognizes industrial sties in Oregon that demonstrate leadership in the pursuit of energy efficiency.
Friday, January 27, 2012 The Chronicle Online
ST. HELENS - Last February, the City of St. Helens was looking for a way to reduce costs at its primary treatment lagoon, while ensuring the lagoon was still properly aerated and mixed. The city found its answer in the purchase of two Solar Bees, solar-panel-run sludge mixer. That decision recently won them the state award from the Oregon Leaders Award.
The award program is run in partnership with the Oregon Department of Energy, Energy Trust of Oregon, Bonneville Power Administration and Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance. The awards are intended to recognize Oregon industrial sites that demonstrate leadership in the pursuit of energy efficiency.
"This project was somewhat unique in that it involved using a product that has not instinctively been used in Oregon," said Tim Lammers, a Columbia River PUD energy services supervisor who nominated the city for the award.
"Although the wastewater treatment plant didn't develop the technology, I thought it took some innovative and creative thinking on their part to move ahead with an unconventional aeration product," Lammers added.
The solar-run lagoon mixers circulate matter in the lagoon, keeping the organisms alive and not using grid power, which minimizes a huge expense for the city.
"We were looking for cost-effective alternatives to running the aerators," said Aaron Kunders with the city's wastewater treatment facility. "We have 2,400 horsepower available and in different sizes ranging from 50 to 150 HP. But they use a lot of energy and we were looking for ways to reduce that."
Lammers and Kunder each said the Solar Bee project is definitely saving the city money.
"It's actually gone beyond our expectations. We're saving more money than we expected and we're getting better mixing and better treatment because of it," said Kunder.
Lammers said the electricity and cost savings the city will experience should be significant.
"According to an engineering study we had done on the back-end of the project, after everything was installed, the city should save at least 2.2 million kilowatt hours a year," said Lammers. "That's enough electricity to power 172 average homes for that same period of time."
The initial project costs weren't prohibitive either. Kunder said about 70 percent of the $380,000 needed to install the Solar Bees was ultimately reimbursed under the Energy Smart Industrial program.
"It was their willingness to look for a better mousetrap. It was commendable and deserved some special attention on their part, and hopefully encourages other people to think, ‘How can I do a better job of creating energy efficient projects?'" said Lammers.