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The Rise in Solar Panels Thefts – Protecting Your Solar Farm

The Rise in Solar Panels Thefts – Protecting Your Solar Farm
The Rise in Solar Panels Thefts – Protecting Your Solar Farm

Renewable energy is a trending topic at present, driven partially by the need for sustainable, environmentally-friendly energy production but also by soaring energy prices that have made conventional utilities prohibitively expensive.

Solar panels, outdoor wind farms and hydroelectric plants are becoming increasingly popular. The larger the facility, the greater the efficiencies and green credentials, with thousands of farmers converting unused outdoor spaces – but is this giving rise to a new crime wave in the UK?

One of the challenges is that, although solar panels are now more prevalent than ever, they are also valuable and exposed to criminal theft and damage. It can be difficult to safeguard large outdoor spaces or implement around-the-clock security, but several solutions are available.

Security Risks for Solar Farms

Large solar panel farm installations can cost hundreds of thousands of pounds, and even small-scale residential grids require an upfront investment. This factor is one of many that make solar panels an easy target for criminals. Let’s look at some of the major issues:

  • Solar panels are impossible to disguise or hide from view, as they must be exposed to maximum daylight. Panels are often installed in large grid shapes across open fields and are visible from roadways and public paths.
  • Installations tend to be expedited to comply with tight timescales, often without the capacity to put security provisions in place during or after the grid is in place.
  • Securing outdoor spaces is notoriously challenging for landowners and farmers who otherwise are not exposed to unlawful intrusions. Fields cannot easily be monitored with security patrols where the land is not adjacent to an access road and require an off-road vehicle to reach.
  • Isolated fields with long lines of high-value solar panels are a beacon for either planned thefts or opportunistic criminals.

Common Crimes Affecting Outdoor Solar Farms

Several instances of solar panel theft have been reported, including an incident at Gateshead International stadium as well as a larger incident in 2021 in which 221 solar panels were stolen from a solar farm. Solar panel theft is the primary issue, although some landowners report that it isn’t just the panels themselves that are stolen. Thieves also target cables and wiring and either use quad bikes or other all-terrain vehicles to access the site or attend on foot, usually overnight, to remove valuable cables.

The cost to replace solar panels can be extremely high, and it may not be possible to apply for additional funding grants to cover the expenditure.

Inverters, solar batteries and converters (more commonly installed at residential sites) are also expensive pieces of equipment more vulnerable to theft.

Other crimes impacting solar farms include vandalism and, perhaps surprisingly, protests and civil unrest.

Solar Panel Vandalism

Vandalism is not always a planned, deliberate crime. Still, it can be caused by disruptive individuals who see a remote field of solar panels as a chance to cause extreme damage without being caught, smashing solar panels and rendering them redundant.

A knock-on impact is a lack of safety for the landowner and local families who now need to worry about the open invitation – if unintentional – for vandals and intruders.

Protests and Disturbances

Finally, some solar farms have experienced protests, even though solar power is regarded as a clean, green and sustainable renewable energy source for the benefit of all. Solar power that replaces fossil fuels is advantageous for local communities and the environment, reducing carbon output and gases released into the atmosphere.

These compelling benefits aside, some people simply dislike the appearance of solar panels, believing that renewable energy farms are detrimental to the local area, or make natural landscapes less appealing.

Solar farm owners must consider all potential threats when reviewing their security measures, incorporating professional security responses where possible rather than trying to deal with criminals, vandals or protestors themselves, leading to potentially dangerous or even life-threatening situations.

Public Liability

The potential liability of an individual becoming injured when illegally trespassing on your land is also a major consideration. Even if the person is unlawfully trespassing on a solar farm with malicious intent, any injuries they suffer could be deemed the landowner’s responsibility for not preventing access.

Essential Security Protection for Solar Farms

Fortunately, there are multiple steps that solar farm owners can leverage to ensure unauthorised visitors are actively deterred or proactively prevented from breaching their perimeter or accessing private property – be that a field or a fully-fitted solar farm.

Below we run through some of our most popular solutions:

Concrete Barrier Blocks

Concrete barriers blocks are a versatile and cost-effective perimeter control solution and can be placed across access routes, private pathways, land or boundaries. Interspaced or stackable concrete barriers are extremely heavy and require specialist commercial equipment to move them and prevent any vehicle from passing.

Often used to restrict access to open land to prevent fly-tipping, concrete blocks can be fitted for long or short-term periods and can be deployed quickly for your peace of mind.

CCTV Installation

Commercial CCTV cameras and live recording notices are effective deterrents. They can be installed with AI technology such as body temperature detection, facial recognition and tilt, pan and zoom features, along with remote monitoring.

We can rapidly deploy solar-powered CCTV towers with a telescopic mast of up to six metres in height without any vulnerability to tampering. They are equipped with commercial-grade battery packs, so they do not require any mains wiring, foundations or running costs and are designed to be left unmanned for long periods.

Security Perimeter Fencing

Fencing is a physical border delineation that can prevent individuals from reaching your solar farm. We provide a range of security fencing with anti-climb features or commercial electric fences integrated with wireless intruder alarms to offer quality controlled shocks to deter access without causing harm.

Weatherproof intruder fences can be fitted with concrete barrier blocks or as a standalone measure and are available in any size or dimension.

Expert Solar Farm Security Advice

Clearway is a market-leading security provider with expertise in protecting outdoor areas, sites, or properties that are difficult to defend with traditional approaches.

Our skilled consultants can provide further information about any security measures discussed here or arrange an obligation-free site visit to recommend the best solutions to keep your solar farm protected and defended 365 days a year.

Solar powered CCTV for Solar Park case study

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