Solar-powered device could control algae in Lake Lanier

LAKE LANIER - A solar-powered device that circulates water might be a solution to dangerous blue-green algae growths that could come to Lake Lanier, a spokesman for the product said.

In a presentation to members of the Lake Lanier Association and others who live or work on the water, Michael Lipparelli touted the SolarBee, a solar-powered circulator that he said disrupts the algae's environment, killing the plant and keeping it from spreading.

Lake Lanier does not have excessive amounts of the algae, he said, but has indicators that imply that algae growth could soon increase. Members of the Lake Lanier Association worry that permits to allow wastewater discharge in the lake could mean more algae growth.

Blue-green algae is at a competitive advantage against healthier types, Lipparelli said, because it can control its buoyancy, moving up in the water for sunlight or down for nutrients. The SolarBee would circulate the water at a rate of 10,000 gallons a minute, allowing other types of algae to grow.

Those other types are part of the food chain, Lipparelli said, while blue-green algae is inedible and can disrupt a lake's ecosystem.

The devices are in 160 lakes nationwide, including three in Georgia in Conyers, Palmetto and Union Point. The largest affects about 35 acres and would cost about $38,000. They have a lifespan of 25 years.

Attendees at the presentation said the buoy-like device seemed to work in smaller bodies of water, but questioned whether it could help a lake as large as Lanier. They also wondered whether the lake's many boaters would be a problem for the devices, which are suspended in the water.

Darcie Holcomb, the headwaters conservation director for the Upper Chattahoochee Riverkeeper, said she thinks the SolarBee would have to be piloted to see if it would work in Lake Lanier. Diana Davidson, who lives on the lake, said there is a lot of room for improvement on Lake Lanier.

"We do have to look after the water," she said. "I've watched the changes and it's sad."