Solar Panels Theft a New Class of Crime

It is one of the newer crimes under the sun. So security companies are scrambling to stop thieves taking solar panels. Sunny places, it turns out, attract shady people.
“It’s amazing what people do pick to steal these days.”

So as well as catching the sun, this solar unit in California’s Napa Valley is being armed with cameras and motion detectors to catch a thief.

Who Steals the Solar Panels?

These guys are coming in at night, they’re grabbing these panels and uh, whether they’re walking out of there, it’s where they are, they’re driving their cars and then loading them up real fast, if they’re able to get them out with one or two people.

Thieves have plenty of targets in California whether or more than 52,000 solar installations. Each 3-foot by 4-foot panel cost a thousand dollars or more. Schools in Pleasanton have had solar panels torn from the roof 5 times. 24 panels disappeared from a hardware store in Sebastopol. But wine country has been hit hardest.

Solar Panels theft in Vineyards

Here in the Napa Valley the vines are what make the money but increasingly, vineyards have discovered that the same sun that produces the grapes is valuable in producing electricity and the thieves have discovered the value in these too.

I was dumbfounded. I was like ‘who would take solar panels?
Michael Honig installed 819 solar panels to provide all the power his winery needs. One morning, he discovered that 40 panels were gone. So when I rode by, I was surprised when I saw one of these rows was missing – says Michael Honig.

At least a dozen Napa wineries have lost panels worth a total of $400,000. Some have been hit twice including Honig’s winery, There is an epidemic of theft right now just like the thefts of solar panels in the Bay Area.

Finally, Honig put in security cameras. The next week, there was a hand across the lens then shadowy figures among the panels. 3 men were caught and are now in jail.

Police thinks some of the stolen panels may go into indoor Marijuana growers who are big users of electricity and with growing demand from builders for solar panels, there appears to be a black market in this green technology.

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