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Solar panel theft is a key issue for owners and operators of renewable energy sites in the UK. When solar panels are stolen, revenue is impacted. Furthermore, insurance claims, the cost and time associated with replacing panels impacts operations.

As experts in solar farm security, we have written this short article offering solutions to help deter panel theft.

In addition to panels being stolen from solar farms, reports in the UK press highlight just how lucrative they are to criminals. Other locations where panels are used, and stored are also the target for criminals.

220 solar panels stolen from Lincolnshire farm

Men arrested on suspicion of fraud after theft of £450k of solar panels

Solar Site CCTV Monitoring & Protection systems

Deterring solar panel theft

In this short article, we offer some advice on the security measures that can help deter solar panel theft and catch thieves in the act.

Owners and operators of solar farms are responsible for maintaining revenue and operational continuity.

When panels are stolen the impact can be disastrous.

Here are various ways you can deter panel theft from solar farms in the UK.

Deterring solar panel theft with offsite CCTV monitoring

Owners and operators of solar farms don’t have to deal with the threat of crime daily. However, when they are the victims of crime, the cost can easily run into hundreds of thousands, if not millions. This largely depends on the size and scale of the operation.

Employing onsite security guards to patrol the site and monitor CCTV footage can be expensive.

Three guards could easily cost over £100,000 in salaries alone.

CCTV monitoring provides a cost-effective, robust alternative to managing solar farm security.

Here’s how it works:

  • The system is deployed in the usual way
  • Cameras are positioned to watch over the panels
  • Each camera is fitted with sensors designed to spot human presence
  • If the system is triggered, an alarm signal is received at an offsite monitoring centre
  • The CCTV footage is reviewed
  • If a security threat is spotted, appropriate action can be taken

In many cases, CCTV monitoring can reduce the cost of security by around 80%

Looking to learn more about CCTV monitoring?

Here are two articles we have written covering this topic:

How does CCTV monitoring work?

Will CCTV monitoring reduce the need for security guards?

Solar Farm Perimeter Fence

Deterring solar panel theft with perimeter security

The site perimeter is the first line of defence.

A robust perimeter security system can help prevent thieves from accessing the site. Security fencing is often deployed to deter trespass and thieves.

As mentioned in the previous section of this article, CCTV  cameras can be deployed to monitor suspicious activity within the site perimeter.

To ensure maximum security, CCTV cameras and alarms can be deployed to protect the site perimeter.

If you work with an experienced solar farm security company, they should be building the following protection and detection systems into the system:

  • PIR beams & sensors. If an intruder triggers a beam or sensor, it raises an alert. Your offsite CCTV monitoring team will review the footage and take immediate action where needed
  • Infra-Red (IR) lighting and illuminators. IR lighting and illuminators are deployed in areas where environmental considerations limit the use of traditional security lighting. IR lighting and illuminators provide an element of stealth to the system. A thief or trespasser won’t see the light, and will be oblivious to the fact they are being monitored. Furthermore, the monitoring station will see the intruder. Perfect for apprehending criminals
  • Perimeter intrusion detection systems (PIDs). This can be in the form of fence, ground mounted or buried vibration detection systems.
  • Video analytics. Due to the rural nature of solar farms, the presence of wildlife around the site perimeter is unavoidable. Advanced video analytics can be deployed to distinguish between a cow and an intruder leading to improved detection and reduced false alarms

Deterring solar panel theft with access control

If you are providing access to your solar site via lock and key, you could be impacting security.

If general site access during the build phase isn’t monitored appropriately, you could be inviting crime.

Why?

During the build phase of utility-scale solar farms, hundreds of site workers will be accessing the site.

Upon completion of the site, maintenance staff are likely to visit the site to carry out checks and remedial works.

By deploying a monitored access control system, you can track and trace access to the site on an individual basis.

If you don’t, a criminal gang could have a ‘man on the inside’. This person could comfortably provide intel on the site and provide thieves with easy access to the site late at night.

But, what about CCTV monitoring? Surely this suffices?

Criminals are resourceful and take risks. The chief beneficiaries of theft aren’t necessarily the perpetrators. Those stealing the panels, are likely doing so on behalf of another.

If you deploy a trackable fob, or key card access control system, you will know if someone has accessed the site at 3am, or who they are.

Related reading

For more information on the services Safeguard Systems offer, related to this article, here are some useful links:

Solar farm security

Perimeter security

CCTV monitoring

Access control