Advanced Technology Gears Up to Protect Renewable Energy

Advanced Technology Gears Up to Protect Renewable Energy

As the renewable energy market grows, it experiences new risks and threats. The blazing sun and powerful winds place solar and wind farms in lonely areas, making it difficult to secure via manpower. Electronic security plays a pivotal role for the remote protection of large-scale green energy farms.

Wind and solar farms are mostly situated in unpopulated and isolated areas. Their relative isolation can be used as an effective barrier against possible intruders. “While this makes sense for a mountain top, the remote location is exactly the factor that make farms vulnerable to theft,” said Gregory Johnston, CTO of Jet Protect. “Once a photovoltaic (PV) panel has been lifted, it can be placed anywhere to generate electricity, making it a commodity. In fact, theft at solar farms has exploded these past six months.” Aside from simply stealing panels, the removal of one panel can often cause damage to a secondary panel, said John Bowerman, MD of GPS Perimeter Systems.

Other risks posed to wind and solar farms include vandalism, said John Downie, Sales and Marketing Manager for Europe, CBC. “All these threats are combined with challenges posed in protecting large sites with exposed perimeters, and the need to adequately monitor the movements of people and vehicles legitimately entering the site, while ensuring that others are detected before they cause any harm.”

Terrorism is another threat. As renewable energy is expected to become a significant power source by 2020, deliberate attacks could severely damage the economy. “The cost to replace these sites will be tremendous,” said Hagai Katz, Senior VP of Marketing and Business Development, Magal Security Systems.

Most security now is basic for green energy farms, and there is certainly a market for such systems. "But as we move on to bigger sites, which will happen within this decade, we will see more sophisticated systems with smarter intrusion detection, radars and smarter cameras,” Katz said. “The ‘heart' of the site where the energy is collected and fed into the grid will be protected by another layer. First responders will be nearby with vehicles geared with communication equipment as part of the full command and control solution to quickly arrive at the site, if an incident were to occur. This will become more popular in the next two or three years and companies are currently researching and placing investments into this type of setup.”

Prevention is the main goal.Removing all 5,000 panels from a 1-megawatt (MW) farm would take up to 10 people working all night, said Gaetano Capula, Director of Marketing, GPS Standard. “Therefore, there is enough time to react once an alarm sounds, however, the purpose of the system is not to catch the thieves, but to keep them away or to rapidly expel them from the farm.”

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