Savannah Morning News: Former Landfill Site Hosts Bees Along with Solar Panels
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Last spring the buzz around the SeaPoint Industrial Terminal Complex on President Street was its newly installed solar panels. Now it’s the actual buzz of honeybees.
Dulany Industries, the parent company of SeaPoint partnered with Statesboro-based Five Hives and Vines to place four honeybee hives at the site of what was once a city dump. That’s about 80,000 honeybees when the hives are at their seasonal peak. They’ll be pollinating plants across downtown Savannah, said Eric VanOtteren, of Five Hives and Vines.
“Bees forage up to five miles away,” he said. “They forage in a huge area.”
The bees also have plantings of wildlflowers, palm trees and bottle brush bushes near the hives to visit.
“The eight acres at the entrance to our site containing solar, indigenous wildflowers and bees are representative of the larger sustainable model that we are building on over 600 acres at SeaPoint,” said Reed Dulany, president and CEO of Dulany Industries in a prepared statement. “It is a great way to educate and welcome people to our site.”
On Wednesday, SeaPoint’s utilities manager Kevin McCusker donned his beekeeper’s jumpsuit, gloves and a hood and fed the bees a solution of sugar water. A field of yellow lance leaf coreopsis and orange sulphur cosmos bloomed. Van Otteren taught him the basics and despite the occasional sting — “I’m not allergic,” he insisted — he’s taken to beekeeping.
“After 32 years, this is the best part,” he said.
Dulany Industries installed rows of ground mounted solar on the site earlier this year. The 4,000 south-facing panels panels have a 1.2 megawatt capacity, enough to power about 240 homes.
A pollinator garden set among the solar farm was part of Dulany’s original vision for the property. The project suffered a setback in August 2017 when Georgia Power at the last minute pulled out of a previous deal that would have provided community solar. Dulany eventually financed the project with another Georgia Power program called the Renewable Energy Development Initiative, which allows Dulany Industries to own and operate the panels and sell the electricity to the utility through a long-term contract for an undisclosed rate.
Coastal Georgians welcome the spread of renewable energy, according to the latest Yale Climate Opinion Survey. It indicates that about 80 percent of people in first congressional district, which stretches across the coast of Georgia, support research on renewables such as solar as well as tax incentives for electric vehicles and solar panels.
Van Otteren hopes to double the number of hives come spring.
A hive can produce up to 60 pounds of honey in a good year, Van Otteren said. He plans to split the honey with SeaPoint and make a small local batch of SeaPoint mead, or honey wine with the honey he pulls from the site. Five hives and Vines is planning to open its meadery, or mead winery, in 2020.