Q: A few months back, my neighbors and I discovered a strange, almost alien-looking craft floating in our local retention pond. It has three small boat-like floats, some solar panels and what looks like some kind of transmitter or antenna in the center. It’s about 8- to 10-feet around and appears to be anchored to the bottom. The location is between Polly Avenue and Whitaker Road along the east side of Santa Barbara Boulevard. Is this the prelude to an alien invasion or just the NASA rover they lost awhile back?
— Rob Buckley, East Naples
Q: Kill the “Star Trek” theme. Your concern is not interplanetary, but rather down to earth.
The object in your neighborhood retention pond looks similar to a communication satellite from outer space, but it is a SolarBee, a solar-powered water circulator. The device is designed to improve the water quality and prevent algae growth while reducing the energy and maintenance costs of typical electric-controlled fountains and aeration systems.
Collier County had the Medora Corp. equipment installed in February of this year and informational signs are in the process of being fabricated and installed, said Connie Deane, a county spokeswoman.
The SolarBee is a high-volume — 10,000 gallons per minute — very low-velocity, long-distance circulator that pulls water from deeper layers of the pond up to the surface and out to its edge. This enhanced circulation is designed to improve water quality in the 6-acre pond, reports Senior Project Manager Steve Preston in the county’s Growth Management Division Natural Resources Department.
This particular pond collects stormwater from Santa Barbara Boulevard in East Naples. The runoff water tends to be high in algal nutrients and roadway pollutants. Noxious gases such as hydrogen sulfide and ammonia commonly build up in the deeper parts of these ponds as a result of excessive algae growth and stagnation, according to county information.
Not only does the SolarBee save electricity costs, but it reduces the need for toxic chemicals to treat algae in the pond, the county reports.
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