Are Organised Solar Panel Thieves Targeting Solar Farms to Order?

Submitted by admin on 27th January 2016

In 2014 NFU Mutual estimated that solar panel theft cost UK farmers around £50,000. Claims in the first quarter of 2015 have risen sharply.

With the cost of scrap metal falling, organised thieves are beginning to focus on alternative targets - such as solar panels. Although panels sometimes disappear from residential rooftops, large solar parks are the main target. These solar farms tend to be situated outside built-up areas where organised gangs can pull up in lorries, work unobserved overnight using specialist tools and then make a quick escape.

Already this year there have been reports of multiple large-scale thefts from rural UK solar sites. A farm in Gloucestershire was targeted in March, followed by two separate thefts of around 100 solar panels in Derbyshire. In June nearly 200 panels worth around £30,000 were stolen from a solar farm site in Lincolnshire.

Growing International Black Market for Solar Panels

The UK is not the only country to have seen such thefts. Germany, thanks to a decade of generous feed-in subsidies, has more installed solar power capacity than any other country. The introduction of alternative energy subsidies in eastern Europe has also made it easy to resell the equipment there - likely attracting thieves from across the border.

Germany’s federal criminal police office reported more than 3,000 solar panels were stolen in the rural state of Brandenburg last year and victims incurred some €710,000 in theft-related losses. Equipment worth more than €500,000 was been stolen in the first four months of 2015 alone, while losses amounting to tens of thousands of euros are all too common. It warns that solar panels are "often insufficiently protected or not secured at all".

In the USA, California has over 34,000 solar installations, including many vineyards. Just like in the UK, these agricultural installations are often easy pickings, however, California's solar panel thieves are potentially motivated by a free source of power for the lamps used to grow another one of its biggest cash crops - marijuana.

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