A global awareness of the need to limit the use of fossil fuels has fueled the renewable energy sector in recent years. Several options have come up in recent years, but solar energy is probably the most popular among them. Countries worldwide are making concentrated efforts to take advantage of solar power by setting up panels in various places.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), the US alone has seen an annual growth of 33 percent
for solar energy in the last decade. As of 2021, more than 255,000 people work in solar at more than 10,000 companies in the US. In 2021, the solar industry generated nearly $33 billion in private investment in the American economy.
Such unprecedented growth has increased the importance of providing robust physical security at solar farms. As the economy and people become more dependent on solar energy, any security incident in solar farms can have far-reaching consequences. Protecting renewable energy plants like solar farms may pose certain challenges as they are relatively new setups and have unique systems in place.
Challenges in protecting solar farms
Most solar farms would have guards to secure the place. But given the critical nature of a power plant, guards are not enough to guarantee round-the-clock protection. Continuous video surveillance using AI-enabled cameras would go a long way in ensuring security and safety at solar farms.
But certain factors make solar farms unique and challenging. In a recent blog post
, Viktoria Jildenkrans from Axis Communications pointed out that solar farms are usually vast, and the scale alone creates several difficulties.
“Solar panels can each capture a certain amount of sunlight and turn this into electricity – the more solar panels, the more energy,” Jildenkrans said. “As a result, solar power plants can be significant in size, many reaching hundreds of acres, with lengthy perimeters that need to be protected from breach day and night. In addition, while solar farms cover large areas, specific areas in the site will require greater levels of security and the ability to monitor maintenance work.”
The nature of their location also makes things difficult. Because solar farms require large areas, they may be in remote places. They would also be in places where temperatures are high, the air is dry, and dust is excessive. This means that you can only use surveillance devices designed for rugged conditions.
What solar farm security requires
Security must begin at the perimeter. Modern security solutions offer a number of options to customers. From normal surveillance cameras to thermal, radar, and analytics-enabled systems would ensure that threats are detected in real-time and operators are alerted instantly.
“In combination with other technologies, network video cameras are an essential tool in protecting the perimeter of solar farms and in reducing the number of false alarms caused by weather events or animals,” Jildenkrans explained. “Video surveillance and thermal cameras, radar sensors and analytics combine to detect, verify, identify, and track people or animals getting close to or breaching perimeters. Low-light technologies allow for 24hr visual verification even in almost total darkness.”
She added that the integration of network audio also helps meet the security, safety and operational efficiency of solar farms. Live and pre-recorded warnings can be played when intrusions are detected, whether deliberate or accidental, while instructions regarding safety or maintenance can be played to personnel on site.
Access control solutions are also useful to make sure that only authorized people enter the site. Facial recognition technology can also come in handy to detect intrusion.
Sustainable solutions for sustainable living
Generating solar energy is a crucial step toward sustainable living. From this perspective, using energy-efficient solutions to manage security would also make sense. Fortunately, many major security solution providers invest in developing devices that consume lower energy.
Edge-based analytics, for instance, can make sure that only necessary data is sent to the server. Other measures include the use of PoE, proper compression standards, and lowering the camera density per server.
Renewable energy plants are increasingly becoming a critical part of public infrastructure and require strong physical security. While they present certain challenges, they are also an important opportunity for solution providers and integrators.
Knowing what makes each site unique would go a long way in ensuring proper security. A solar farm, for instance, would be large, often remote, and may have harsh weather conditions. Solutions used at these places should be selected using these concerns in mind.