Across Europe, wind turbine looting has become an extremely profitable activity, and, unfortunately, an increasingly popular one. Site security is therefore a growing issue and asset owners need to start carefully considering their anti-theft measures.
Between 2012 and 2013, French police reported an 18% increase in the number of copper thefts from wind farms. A single turbine contains one ton of copper, worth around €4500 on the open market, and it’s clear that thieves have consequently identified the expanding wind energy sector as a target.
What’s more, the financial and operational impact of a theft to a project owner is far greater than the value of any material loss. The theft of a high voltage cable leads to significant refurbishment work and a complete shutdown of the turbine for a period of at least a month. The subsequent loss of production can cost up to €100k per wind turbine generator and is not covered in the terms of an O&M contract.
Insurance companies are naturally well aware of this emerging trend and policies for wind energy assets are becoming increasingly stringent when it comes to evidence of site security measures – often leading to a complex and time-consuming claims management process.
From a financial perspective, therefore, it is crucial that asset owners take appropriate measures protect against theft. Below, Greensolver identifies some of the most effective site security solutions.
Comprehensive alarm system
Arguably the most complete solution to on-site security is a comprehensive intruder alarm system that combines sensor detection and voice identification to activate deterrent mechanisms.
In the event of an intrusion – and in the absence of password confirmation – the monitoring center will activate a number of mechanisms including the spread of a smoke screen, strong lighting and the sounding of a powerful siren. This kind of system will also rapidly notify the local police, who can intervene much more promptly as a result.
Identifying HV cables
Should an intruder remain undeterred by alarm systems and gain access to cabling, another solution is the introduction of a chemical marking system to identify each and every cable on site.
This technology, known as “SelectaDNA” is a high-tech marking solution containing thousands of microdots made of nickel, plastic and polymers with a unique owner code and a UV tracer.
A UV torch can identify each cable and which wind farm it belongs to. This marking system, which is already in use by transmission and railway operators helps identify stolen cables when it comes to the presentation of evidence in court. While it works effectively for new builds, for older farms, it comes with retrofit challenges.
Identifying the intruder
Similarly, “SelectaDNA” can be used to help identify the intruders themselves. Greensolver has identified a system consisting of a DNA spray that is activated when a thief tampers with or removes a cable.
This marks the offender and allows the police to identify a thief up to 120 days after the robbery.
Naturally, we shouldn’t dismiss the simplest and arguably most cost-effective solution of all. Installing warning signs to notify would-be thieves of the security measures on site can also work as a basic, yet proven deterrent.
Don’t let security issues undermine the value of your plant. Let Greensolver help you identify the most effective ways to protect your assets against theft and unwelcome downtime.