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Solar Crime Barometer

Solar panels lined up on a solar farm

Trends, insights and best practice advice to protect your solar business


By Gary Higgins, Director of Security and Risk

Across the solar industry, we are seeing an increasing number of reported thefts from solar farms. Given the context of the cost-of-living crisis, projected increases in copper prices and the ambition of governments around the world to potentially triple solar capacity by 2030, it is highly likely that thefts from solar farms will become increasingly frequent.

Secluded locations, coupled with high value solar panels and copper cables, make solar farms an attractive target for criminals. Whether organised crime groups or lower-level offenders, criminals can often work undisturbed through the night, causing significant physical and financial damage in just a few hours.

It is, therefore, crucial that our understanding of crime on solar farms improves and owners become more vigilant by taking the preventative measures that help deter criminals and protect solar farm assets.

This insight guide aims to highlight where solar farms’ risks are greatest and the proactive measures that solar farms can deploy to prevent theft and safeguard solar farm infrastructure. Over the coming pages, we will lay out the scale of the problem, how you can be part of the solution, and provide recommendations to protect your sites and high value equipment.

Read on for a high-level understanding of the latest solar farm crime trends. We will also provide recommendations for how you can start to tackle this growing issue and showcase how DeterTech’s solutions can help prevent theft and help solar farms protect their assets from every angle.

Data Points

x4 - The increase in theft of solar panels from 2021 to 2022. (Source: DeterTech CrimeIntel)

82% - The amount of energy the EU aims to generate from clean sources by 2030. (Source: EuroNews)

48% - The increase in cable thefts from solar farms from 2021 to 2022. (Source: DeterTech CrimeIntel)

61% - Of solar farms retargeted or within 5 miles of another solar farm targeted in the same year. (Source: DeterTech CrimeIntel)

1m+ - Number of solar panels already protected with SmartTrace, powered by SmartWater forensic marking technology. (Source: DeterTech)

March to May - Peak months for theft from solar farms 2022. (Source: DeterTech CrimeIntel)

£100k - Value of copper cable stolen from a single site in Shropshire.

69GW - Capacity of solar and wind due to be added by the EU in 2023. (Source: PV-Tech)

Recommendations for Businesses

Report all thefts

Report all solar thefts to the police and to DeterTech Crime Intelligence. It allows for the improved tracking and conviction of organised criminal gangs.

Deploy monitored CCTV

Install monitored CCTV and alarm systems to alert security and the police to the presence of intruders. The PID360 is a proven visually verified solution for temporary and semi/permanent surveillance.

Improve security at previously targeted solar farms

Solar farms that have been targeted once are highly likely to be revisited in the same year. So, ensure there is a visible security upgrade at these premises.

Utilise forensic marking technology

Forensically mark and register equipment to ensure the best chance of recovery should your solar panels be stolen.

Use trackers

Place trackers on solar panels and copper cables. For particularly high value items or repeatedly targeted premises, a
secondary tracker should also be considered. Many criminals stop looking after disabling the first one.

Community security measures

Display prominent signage for the security measures in place, such as CCTV. It’s a proven deterrent as criminals are more
likely to avoid locations that are overtly protected.

Increase vigilance

Train employees to remain vigilant and report any suspicious behaviour. A hi-vis jacket is not a guarantee of a person's right
to be in close proximity of high value equipment.

Limit vehicular access

A determining factor in the size of solar thefts is the ease with which criminals are able to park a vehicle in close proximity to the items they are looking to steal.

Remember, avoid direct contact with offenders

Ensure employees know not to challenge offenders. If safe, they should take a photo or note vehicle details such as the registration, make, model and colour.

Be aware of crime hotspots

DeterTech's crime mapping portal can help you understand where criminal gangs are known to be operating.

Case Study

More than 150 stolen solar panels recovered

The Problem

In the knowledge that an organised criminal gang was targeting sites in the West Midlands, a solar farm operator approached DeterTech to introduce new security measures at its site near Kidderminster. They sought to deter criminals and ensure that, in the worst-case scenario, there was a good possibility of stolen property being identified and recovered.

The Breakthrough

In early 2019, determined criminals stole in excess of 150 solar panels. Unbeknownst to them the stolen solar panels were marked with SmartTrace, DeterTech’s one-of-a-kind forensic marking technology powered by SmartWater technology. DeterTech helped to notify law enforcement who swiftly launched an investigation to catch the culprits and recover the stolen goods. A breakthrough came after West Mercia Police, with the support of Staffordshire Police, visited an address in Newcastle-under-Lyme.

The Resolution

During a search of the address, a haul of solar panels was found, and subsequent scanning using UV torches found them to be marked with SmartWater technology. As each formulation of SmartWater is unique it was a simple process to consult the database and identify the exact site from which they had been taken.

Forensic analysis provided by DeterTech scientists meant police could evidentially trace the panels back to the scene of the crime, resulting in two arrests.

Further Benefits

SmartWater retains a 100% conviction rate in contested court cases. Many criminals will actively avoid locations where they see the Protected by SmartWater signage.

Intelligence gathered by DeterTech during the subsequent investigation identified that stolen panels were to be exported to Spain, and as a result, the disposal route was disrupted.

About DeterTech

Protect your assets from every angle

DeterTech provides end-to-end security solutions to manage risk and combat acquisitive crime. This includes threat analysis verified video surveillance and market leading forensic marking technology to protect solar assets, deter thieves and safeguard infrastructure.

Our specialist support team, exclusively made up of experienced investigators and intelligence analysts, physically survey your site and analyse crime data to identify risks and make site specific security recommendations.

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