Security systems preventing solar panel theft at solar farms in UK

by James Martin II on February 12, 2013

Surveillance systems for solar panel theft prevention

Solar panel theft is a real issue in the UK. While the price of panels has come down considerably in the past few years, they are still a significant investment, and it would be painful for the owner to have this integral part of a solar photovoltaic (PV) system stolen from under their nose. Security is a particularly important concern for large-scale solar farms and solar parks, which are ordinarily located on sizable tracts of land, often in remote areas. To combat the threat of vandalism and theft on its solar farms, one prominent solar farm developer in the UK has been installing technologically advanced surveillance systems.

The security systems in question have already been deployed on a number of 5 megawatt (MW) solar farms in various locations throughout the UK. They combine the technologies of 3 different companies to form a best-of-breed surveillance package: a video management system (VMS) by Milestone Systems, thermal cameras by Axis Communications, and video analytics software (called Vi-System) by Agent Video Intelligence (Agent Vi).

The combined solution is a type of IP (internet protocol) surveillance system, which differs from conventional analog CCTV surveillance systems in that it can be accessed over a secure internet portal in addition to via a central control room. In addition to the ‘from anywhere’ accessibility that comes with being online, the integration of Agent Vi’s software enables real-time, automated analysis of video footage, which in turn allows security personnel (or anyone with access to the system) to identify and preempt potential security breaches.

According to a case study (pdf) released by Agent Vi focusing on its work with the solar farm developer, the surveillance systems have managed to thwart numerous intruder attempts without human security presence on site at a number of the solar farms. This has been possible thanks to the detections undertaken by Agent Vi’s analytics through the thermal cameras, and the automatic alerts that are generated and then acted upon by the monitoring company overseeing the site.

Axis Communications’ thermal cameras first identify potential human intruders by their body heat (even in fog or other poor-visibility weather conditions), then the Vi-System software analyses the images and movement to distinguish between humans and animals, humans and moving vegetation/foliage, etc. Vi-System then determines whether the movement warrants a security alert, so that only relevant alerts are issued. In the case of an alert being generated, and the security guard at the monitoring centre sees that something is amiss, they can take action by issuing a verbal warning over the PA system at the site, or if necessary calling the local police to attend the site and investigate.


They surveillance system was chosen by the solar farm developer both for its lower upfront cost compared to an analog system as well as the cost-savings that it promises over its lifespan–a reduced need for camera footage to be monitored by human beings reduces ongoing O&M costs. Additionally, the solution’s ability to differentiate authentic intruders from animals and passers-by in real-time promises a lower false-alarm rate than conventional analog systems or even other IP surveillance systems without video analytics, saving system owners time and worry.

All images via Agent Vi

© 2013 Solar Selections Ltd

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