Electricity generation from renewable sources increased by 30 per cent between 2012 and 2013, according to the department of energy and climate change. It’s an industry that is growing quickly and one that the UK is still learning to harness.
The renewable energy market can be surprisingly lucrative for those with agricultural land, especially if solar farms are a viable option. However, alongside the growing industry is a growing problem of theft.
Solar farm theft in the news
Recently, BBC Radio 4 reported on solar farm theft and the wider issue of agricultural theft. The Radio 4 Farming Today show stated that, according to NFU Mutual, the UK economy lost £44.5 million to rural crime in 2013. The show highlighted that although “solar panel theft was only a small proportion of that figure…there’s been a sharp rise in solar equipment theft in the first quarter of this year (2015).”
Tim Price, NFU Mutual’s crime expert, went on to explain that a sudden spike in thefts of solar panels in the first quarter of 2015 has been observed and it could be due to changes in the way the government’s ‘feed-in tariffs’ (FITs) work.
Price explained that FITs changed at the beginning of the year and as a result there has been a flurry of activity amongst farms to set up their solar farms to qualify for the special tariffs.
However, amongst the rush sometimes the solar farm security has been somewhat neglected – or not properly invested in. With a growing number of farmers making the most of their land with solar farms, as an alternative commercial venture, security needs to remain a priority.
Solar farm security needs to remain a priority
It’s already common knowledge that farms experience high levels of crime. For example, many farms experience vehicle related crime such as diesel theft, theft of the vehicle itself or vandalism. As a result, farms often have extensive security measures in place such as CCTV with remote monitoring and effective perimeter fencing.
However, if landowners are extending their commercial ventures into solar farming then they need to extend their security measures too. Tim Price stated that their biggest claim on record so far has been £22,000 due to solar farm theft but they are expecting that figure to increase significantly after the first quarter of this year.
How to improve solar farm security
So how can those venturing into solar farming improve their security to prevent theft? Here at Farsight Security Services we monitor CCTV and security systems at two of the country’s largest solar farm companies, making us experts in security provisions for renewable energy farms and in particular for solar farms.
We’ve put together our top four tips to help solar farm owners, or those thinking of venturing into the business, ensure their site is secure and does not become the victim of opportune criminal activity as the market flourishes:
1. Make security a priority from the start
A lot of solar farms experience theft before they are even energised and that’s often because necessary security measures haven’t yet been put in place. Thieves will monitor sites to keep an eye out for arrivals of solar panels and from there make the most of opportunities to steal the panels before they are even bolted into the ground.
By making security a priority from the word ‘go’, solar farms will not be put at risk from theft at such an early stage. Factor security expenses and plans into the strategy for your solar farm from the start and make sure security installations happen before panels are even put into place.
2. CCTV with remote monitoring is an effective, and viable, option
Some may believe that CCTV with remote monitoring is not a viable option for open sites like solar farms. However, modern technology including video analytics and infrared detection and lighting means that an external security provider can effectively monitor CCTV cameras.
The benefits of having remote CCTV monitoring are vast: trained professionals will deal with any alarms raised from your site immediately; with visual verification of alarms police will prioritise the incident; if your CCTV equipment fails, the remote monitoring station will notify you, as oppose to it going unnoticed; remote monitoring may reduce your insurance, and you’ll have peace of mind knowing someone is monitoring your site 24/7.
3. Install a complete perimeter fence
A perimeter fence should always be installed at a solar farm and if it’s good quality it will act as a physical barrier to anyone trying to access the site.
Make sure gates are not a weak point in the perimeter security by investing in suitable locks. And, once the perimeter fence is in place, make sure you don’t park cars near it or leave object unattended leaning against the fence – it could act as a springboard for intruders to enter the site.
4. Keep panels within eyesight
During the news piece on Radio 4, Price also suggested that keeping solar farms within eyesight might help them to experience less crime. It may seem like a wise decision to keep solar farms out of eyesight from roads or villages, either because you’re concerned they’ll be considered an eyesore or because you believe thieves may spot the farm.
However, Price suggests the opposite – solar farms in eyesight often experience less crime as thieves will struggle to be inconspicuous.
If you’re considering developing a solar farm or perhaps are being put in charge of security at a newly installed solar farm, get in touch with us at Farsight today. As experts in remote monitoring and energy farm security we’ll be able to offer advice and guidance on making sure your farm doesn’t become one of the statistics.
Photo: Creative Commons “Solar Farm, Sandy, Bedfordshire” by Orangeaurochs licensed under CC BY 2.0