The number of PV installations has grown dramatically around the world, and due to the value of equipment in solar installations, they’ve become the target of theft. The good news is there are many ways to deter theft and insure against it.
Most recently PV theft has increased where solar is installed in remote locations or on schools and churches, which are not occupied around the clock. Recently a theft of £30,000 worth of solar panels was reported stolen from a business park in the UK. The panels were insured, but by taking some extra preventive measures, the theft could have been thwarted.
Surveying the premises
There are a number of surveillance systems available that can deter thieves by their presence or catch the act on film. These range from simple motion detection video systems to full-fledged perimeter monitoring systems such as that described in “Surveillance for the Solar Industry.”
Bolting solar panels with tamper-proof bolts is a low-tech, simple and low-cost way of preventing theft. One example is Bryce Fastener’s Key-Rex (shown on left), which are tamper proof screws and bolts that require a perfectly manufactured companion key/bit to remove. Each “keyway” is licensed and unique for each user. PV Security Bolt (shown below) and Heliotex both have similar bolts and fastening systems.
Rendering them useless
New Hemos technology from Leto Solar works at the module levels, shutting the panels down if removed from their original installation site. The way it works is that each module is monitored and those diagnostics are stored on a daily, hourly or even minute to minute basis. It offers encrypted signal communication technology that knows just what to do in certain events such as fire or theft.
With so many options for securing PV systems, insurance companies and even solar finance and leasing companies are requiring certain measures to be in place.
The insurance perspective
Implementing some or several preventive measures may increase the return on investment, but it serves to reduce the overall cost of insurance according to Jim Bolz, Chief Underwriting Officer at Energi. “Any time we look at a property from an insurance perspective, we ask what is the security associated with the property. And it doesn’t matter if it is a storage yard for propane trucks or solar panels,” Bolz said.
Energi is a provider of specialized insurance programs to targeted sectors of the energy industry in the United States and Canada. Kevin Kaminski, Senior Vice President, of Energi’s Alternative Energy Solutions , said that the company is seeing more anti-theft hardware and software installed “like LoJack-type devices or alarms that sound an alert sent from a monitor on the solar system—monitoring systems are good for a lot of reasons but basically they alert the client that something is wrong, including if a solar panel has been removed.” Bolz concluded that “like any expensive equipment, solar installations need to be guarded and protected. In the past a lot of clients didn’t take security into account but now we’re seeing high fences, closed circuit monitoring, infrared barriers…”
To meet the underwriting standards necessary to insure a solar installation, it often takes implementation of best security practices. Insurers such as Assurrant, Energi, Solar Insurance, Travelers and Walsh Carter & Associates, who have insurance solutions tailored to solar energy systems are a good source of up-to-date information on risk management and loss prevention. For more on solar insurance read “Insuring Against Risk in Solar Installations.”
Written by Anne Fischer, Managing Editor of Solar Novus Today