Operators will continue to research more and more advanced security and anti-intruder systems, to fight back against thefts on PV plants.


Security of the photovoltaic portfolio is a priority for producers of solar power: copper and component (mostly modules) thefts cause the cessation of activity, partial or total, with economic losses in the form of material losses, physical damages and stops in power generation. For this reason, we combine cutting-forward technologies to hamper thieves, always in full respect of the existing laws.

Plants are usually located in areas far away from towns. This is why we usually prefer to employ technologies that allow us to remote manage them from a control centre. In the place, there always are some surveillance cameras, strategically placed along the perimeter and the key points, like near cabins. In the latest years, we have used more and more thermal cameras, which allows a better quality of images even at night thanks to infrared filming, helping us in avoiding false alarms.

To detect possible breaching of the perimeter, we use several systems like the microphonic electric cable, optical fibre and interred sensor with double tubes, typical of GPS systems. In the latest, the alarm goes off when the weight of a human being on the ground generates a difference in pressure between the two interred tubes. The advantage brought by this method is that we can generally avoid false alarms, especially in the countryside where most of the local fauna do not weight enough to trigger the mechanism. Maintenance tough is harder, since you have to adjust the sensors at least twice a year to set them on new working conditions.

Another system against breaching of the perimeter and of key areas is employing microwave barriers: the device projects a cigar-shaped beam of microwaves, up to 200 meters, toward a receiver that, if the beam is interrupted even partially, triggers the alarm. This system require a fine-tuning, because it can easily generate false alarms.

Still based on exploiting wave lengths are infrared barriers: the columns, positioned in regular intervals, project an array of infrared beams toward each other, creating a curtain coverage that, if interrupted, triggers the alarm.  This technology is convenient for its low maintenance costs, but it is less effective when there is fog or when there’s dirt encrusted on the receiver.

Infrared and microwave technologies are combined with thermal scanning in a more refined system, the volumetric radar, which is used to protect key areas of the plant.

Doors and gates are defended with a magnetic contact alarm that, one activated, rings when opened. Cables up to 1 km in length and solar panels can be traversed with ultra-thin optic fibre cables, in which is passed a signal that, if interrupted by bending or removing the item, triggers the alarm. Some operators even use a signal directly passed through tensed wires.

Evolution in both thieves’ tools and skills has required in the latest years the introduction of new, complementary technologies to protect photovoltaic plants. It is still being experimented the use of drones: when one of the peripheral systems detects an intrusion, the control room flies the drone, equipped with a thermal camera, on the spot from a platform inside the plant.

As anticipated, on a photovoltaic plant the copper wires are among the most frequently stolen items. To fight against these thefts, in addition to anti-intruder systems, we protect, if possible, the wires themselves. The manholes are covered with concrete: an action that make maintenance more complicated but also make it much more difficult for thieves to pull out the wires. Another efficient solution is to switch copper wires with double aluminium ones, not of much interest for criminals due to their lower economic value.

In the next years, operators will continue to research more and more advanced security and anti-intruder systems, to fight back against thefts on PV plants, thus guaranteeing the national power generation and defending their own companies from huge losses.