NPR notices solar theft (that means it's a HUGE new vertical)

Martha was listening to NPR on the way in to work today (it's the only place she gets her news; this may explain why she yesterday had never heard of the Washington Wizards) and heard this NPR piece about the rise in theft of solar panels, particularly in Napa Valley, where wineries have been hit hard. You may remember I wrote about this new solar-panel vertical here. The NPR piece gets off some good lines and does provide a few more bits of information. I personally liked the introduction where "thieves also embrace clean technology" and the speaker posits, "you're a vintner, what a disappointment the thieves leave the bottles but take the solar panels..." Also, it's interesting that the winery invested in a $1.2 million solar array. That's a pretty clear incentive to invest in some security. So, what did he start out with? A chain link fence and two dogs. Hard to imagine why that didn't work... Also, this is a sort of classic media-created story that's really not all that big (and, yes, I understand that I'm complicit in this): All told, about 400 solar panels, at $1000 each, have been stolen in Napa. That's what? $400,000 in losses? Yep. A HUGE new vertical... Still, not only is there the new SunLock company I interview in my story, but NPR also talks with GridLock, yet another alarm company created solely for this vertical. Their system involves wires that are strung through the panels. When they're cut, phone calls are made to up to 20 numbers and an 180-decibel alarm sounds. And people are doing other things to combat this little crime wave: Congressman Mike Thompson has included in the Solar Technology Roadmap Act a provision that would create a registry for serial numbers of solar panels. This might considerably cut down on the market for resale, as there is speculation that the panels are being resold by unscrupulous installers and perfectly normal installations actually contain stolen panels. Either that or they're all being bought up by marijuana growers who want to hide their energy use, which is probably more likely.


Hey! It's not the only place. I read the New York Times too--just not the sports section.

Actually, they are mostly being resold back to the manufacturers, as for the longest time there has been a shortage of silicon wafers. While in Europe this problem started to wind down, it seems to be a "new" trend in the US.

Our equipment was used to protect hundreds of solar installations in Spain, and we went as far as developing a fully standalone solar and wireless perimeter solution.

Thanks Eugene - seems like the serial number registry would have a real impact on that.

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