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Juliette Bustamante 01-Jun-2022 08:45:00 5 min read

Stop Thief! Three steps to keep intruders out of your solar farm

Surging rural crime means now is the time to update your security strategy: a proactive approach will reduce thefts, protect solar assets, and ensure maximum return on resources.

The remote, rural locations of solar farms make them easy targets for vandalism and theft, and the opportunities are only increasing. Renewable energy contributed over 40% to total UK power generation in 2021. Solar PV energy generated around 10% of this power, produced by hundreds of solar farms across the UK.

Until 2018, solar farm theft remained a relatively infrequent occurrence. As new sites continue to be built and thieves become more practised at stripping large amounts of cable, the security threat is increasing. Solar panels, inverters and copper cables are popular targets for thieves. With scrap metal prices rising, the incentives for targeting solar farms multiply.

While previous approaches to security solutions focused on a minimum insurance requirement, today's emphasis is on prevention, minimising damage, and maximising the return on resources invested. Solar insurance policies previously benefited from a low excess for claims. Crime level increases led to higher claim premiums and exponentially higher excess levels. Combined with the fact that most financial business cases have no significant allocation for security-related spending, the funds available to dedicate to proactive security-related strategies may be under severe pressure.

 

Three steps to reinforce your solar farm security 

In response to this changing landscape, Quintas Advisory has developed a dynamic and responsive security strategy based on three key steps to help optimise security-related spending and increase the overall effectiveness of security measures.

 

1. Targeted security spending where most needed

Security risk is variable. Not every solar farm faces the same level of targeted risk, and different farms have varying levels of importance for investors in terms of their ranking within a portfolio. Quintas Advisory has developed a tool that dynamically ranks risk across all the solar farms within a portfolio to identify the most at-risk sites.

A comprehensive list of inputs establishes risk level parameters, such as local crime rates, previous thefts both in the area and at the site itself, the existing security system and the comparative value of the site within the portfolio. Our dedicated tool uses these parameters to calculate a dynamic risk score, establishing risk levels across every site in the portfolio. This customisable approach to risk, differentiating between high and low-risk sites, paves the way for risk-appropriate and cost-effective security solutions to be applied in line with risk levels.

 

2. Customised security system designs

There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to efficient security strategies. The BS 8418:2021 code of practice in the UK highlights best practice strategies for video surveillance in the UK. This code of practice offers recommendations regarding the design, installation, commissioning, and maintenance of detection-activated video surveillance systems. However, for high-risk solar sites, video surveillance may not be sufficient to deter and stop criminal activity, whereas lower-risk sites may only require video surveillance in strategic locations.

Our team will evaluate a portfolio to recommend a complete security solution in collaboration with the owner, O&M companies, landlords and security system providers. We will consider all the vital parameters to establish the most effective solutions, customised to your needs.

 

3. A new patrol strategy

Solar farm owners typically have no contact with or control over the patrol guards that visit their sites when an intrusion alarm is raised. Security systems directly notify an Alarm Receiving Centre (ARC) when an alarm is triggered, where the operators assess the alarm and may instruct patrol guards to attend the site.

In ideal circumstances, patrols would arrive at the site, locate the offenders and at the very least, prevent further damage by their mere presence. Unfortunately, safety regulations almost always prevent patrollers from entering the site, while the unlit, rural surroundings make it impossible to access the entire perimeter.

In practice, the patrol guard arrives at the front gate of the alerted solar site, looks for signs of intrusion, logs the visit, and then proceeds to their next call-out. Many solar sites cover an area larger than 20 football fields, meaning that thieves seeing the lights of an approaching vehicle have no trouble in concealing themselves, even if they have entered via the front gate, which most do not.

While they have a role to play in protecting solar farms, not least because insurers have often encouraged their use, the traditional patrol guard response to an intrusion alert may not be the most effective option for large solar farms.

Quintas Advisory is currently collaborating with the canine security sector on a new patrol strategy for the solar industry. Our new collaborative service involves providing exclusive support for clients through assigning high-risk plants a dedicated canine patrol to survey and protect the identified areas.

Dog handlers receive intruder search training directly on solar farms, supported by the police, and crucially, they complete an induction to allow them to enter the grounds of these specific high-risk solar farms to carry out searches in response to alarms. Another key advantage is that the patroller works exclusively for the client so that they can remain on-site for as long as required to ensure an effective deterrent.

The role of the canine patrol strategy is to provide a dedicated client-focused service. We design the patrol strategy in collaboration with all involved parties to maximise impact and minimise cost.

 

Contact us today to keep thieves at bay

Our three-step approach to addressing security on solar sites focuses on assessing the risk profile of a specific portfolio of sites ensuring that money and effort are spent effectively. Security solutions are tailored to each site according to its risk profile, financial base case, and site-specific vulnerabilities. Recognising that patrol guards are the critical link in the security chain, Quintas Advisory takes full control over the patrol strategy and may recommend turning to canine patrol services in high-risk areas, one of several innovative solutions designed to target rather than increase spending.

As an additional bonus, we can produce comprehensive reports setting out these strategies and their implementation across your portfolio, demonstrating to insurers the proactive steps taken to reduce thefts and subsequent claims.

We will help you reduce the risk of theft throughout your portfolio. Contact us today for an initial chat to find out more about how we can support you.

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Juliette Bustamante

As Quintas Advisory's dedicated legal manager, Juliette provides specialist advice on contracts, planning, OFGEM regulation, commercial land leases, agrivoltaic developments and solar farm security.