ENST Students Energy Project Brings Solar Bee Shed to Local Community

An Exercise in Calculating Energy Use and Swinging Hammers Delivers A Much-needed Addition to Cottage City Community Garden

ENST designed and built solar bee shed being moved into place.

Image Credit: Dave Tilley

June 14, 2024 Kimbra Cutlip

On a warm, sunny day near Washington, D.C., a covey of bees tends to the flowers of a much-loved community garden. The tiny creatures gather the pollen and leave behind dustings from one flower to the next, undisturbed by the rumbling of a nearby train vibrating in the air.

Collectively, the bees will fly nearly 15 million km in a year, seeking out the bounty that their sisters will convert into honey to supply the entire hive with energy. When people collect the sweet golden surplus, the whole system of energy collection and transformation is 2 ½ times more efficient than the production system for refined sugar.

Of course, the bees don’t need to know this, and neither do the residents of Cottage City, Maryland, who tend to their hives. They just know that since they started keeping bees about five years ago, the harvest in their garden has gone up.

What hasn’t increased over those years is the space the Cottage City beekeepers need to store their equipment and do their work--which has made that system rather inefficient. Until now.

Under the guidance of Dave Tilley, an associate professor of Environmental Science and Technology at the University of Maryland, a cohort of undergraduate students designed, built, and delivered a beautiful new shed, which now stands adjacent to the community’s four bee hives. Complete with a solar-powered system for lighting and charging weed whacker batteries and cellphones, the bee shed was the end product of Tilley’s class ENST 405 – Energy and  Environment.

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