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What to know when securing renewable energy plants

What to know when securing renewable energy plants
Interestingly, the nature of renewable energy has an impact on how plants insist on its security being handled too.

Interestingly, the nature of renewable energy has an impact on how plants insist on its security being handled too. Whether installing security facilities in the renewable power plants is efficient would be a challenge that installers may encounter.

Andrea Sorri, Director, Business Development Government, City Surveillance and Critical Infrastructures at Axis Communications, pointed out that one of the major factors coming to our attention is that renewable energy plants often want a security system that, like them, is environmentally efficient and sustainable.

“This is important as a plant wants to project the image of clean and green energy, but if it uses up lots of energy itself, it can get a bad reputation,” Sorri said. “Thermal cameras can be a useful solution to this problem. They do not need constant lighting for effective security surveillance, as they pick up heat signatures even at the dead of night. Not only does this reduce overall cost, but also, and more importantly, reduces energy consumption.”

He added that along the same lines, particularly for solar plants, fences often must have a gap between themselves and the ground. This is to allow space for animals to roam free around the grounds. A clean energy provider does not want to be seen impacting wildlife, as at its core, that’s what it is designed to protect. As a result, thermal cameras can be embedded with software such as perimeter protection to distinguish between a human intruder and an animal passing through, and will only alert security operators of a breach if it is a real threat, reducing false alarms.

“Renewable energy plants can be filled with expensive equipment and groundbreaking technologies,” Sorri added. “It is therefore important to invest in the most up to date technologies, from access control to thermal imaging. This will ensure maximum protection for staff as well as customers who have made the conscious decision of choosing green energy.”

Key factors to consider in this vertical include stopping copper theft from power transmission sections. This metal is well valued and often the target of thefts in many industries. By using analytics such as perimeter protection, detection, and intrusion protection, power plants can decrease the likelihood of a theft from taking place. 

“This not only helps save money but can help save lives,” Sorri said. “The power transmission can often be in dangerous positions and surrounded by deadly machinery, risking the loss of life. With video analytics software integrated into the surveillance system, alarms can be triggered if a thief breaches a dangerous “hot-zone”. Security operators receive an alert and can act accordingly to ensure the intruder does not come to any harm.  This is especially useful for the often-remote locations of renewable energy plants where there may not be a first aider to hand, so help can be sent as soon as possible should an incident occur.”

Access control systems connected to network cameras and analytics software can collect information about accidents or instances where specific people have not followed protocol and have been injured or could have caused an accident. In these situations, cameras can act as devices to help understand what may have happened and why the worker may have got injured in the process. This is particularly valuable for potential lawsuits where there are no witnesses on-site to detail how events occurred. 

Challenges in securing this sector

Understanding the challenges that installers and systems integrators would come across is crucial to providing best solutions. According to Sorri, major challenges include making sure that the cameras used by the renewable power plants are energy efficient. This is important to renewable energy pants as they are designed to provide green and clean energy. Therefore, if they were to be seen to waste any energy it could reflect badly on them.  

Further, it is important that the security cameras and technologies provided will be able to withstand some of the rugged environments in which they need to be located to function. Offshore wind farms, for example, may need specially designed cameras or camera casings that will withstand corrosive seawater and rain.  

“Renewable energy stations must make sure that all software is up to date,” Sorri said. “As renewables become more and more common, the plants will need to be protected against cybersecurity threats. This is important as one power plant may provide energy to several people who very much depend on it. In addition, hackers could interfere with systems and cause malfunctions which would put staff and visitors at risk.”

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