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Solar Power House Owners – Would you like some shotguns with that?

Before you all start piling up on me for making my posts take a ‘violent’ turn, hang on a second and read on. There is a reason for my admittedly outrageous topic. It seems that lately it’s it not just people like you and me who are part of a growing legion of Solar Power House fans. Some of these new fans of solar energy, it seems, are thieves.

Solar panels were stolen from Jim and Shayna Powell’s roof in Palm Desert, Calif. Image Courtesy: J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times

Solar panels were stolen from Jim and Shayna Powell’s roof in Palm Desert, Calif. Image Courtesy: J. Emilio Flores for The New York Times

Glenda Hoffman, of Desert Hot Springs, CA, has had 16 home solar panels stolen from her solar roof top in 3 separate burglaries. The thieves are in for some solar powered heat directed towards them if they attempt a fourth one. Glenda Hoffman’s response to the burglaries: “I have a shotgun right next to the bed and a .22 under my pillow”. She vows that if she ever catches the troublemakers, “they are not going to leave walking”.

Not that I promote gun-slinging in any form, but this would for sure be a well-deserved justice in traditional wild wild west style!

This New York Times article recently broke news about this growing trend, especially in California. The law enforcement has always been familiar with thefts of home construction items, including copper, wires, pipes etc., but this one has left them scratching their heads.

It makes financial sense from the point of view of a thief. A single solar panel can sell for several hundreds of dollars on ebay, while to make the same amount of money from say, copper, a thief would have to steal several tons, conceal it, transport it, and then try to sell it. Much easier to go for a solar panel, it would appear!

Ken Martin Jr. lost 58 panels from the roof of an office building he owns in Santa Rosa, Calif. He estimated they would cost $75,000 to replace. Image Courtesy: Noah Berger for The New York Times

Ken Martin Jr. lost 58 panels from the roof of an office building he owns in Santa Rosa, Calif. He estimated they would cost $75,000 to replace. Image Courtesy: Noah Berger for The New York Times

From the point of view of the victims, the losses can be substantial. It’s not the cost of the solar panels themselves. So far with number of thefts, being relatively small, the homeowners’ insurance is still paying out without much resistance. However it does take time, time which can be costly, not to mention the added hassles of redoing the entire solar energy installation. For example, in the very hot town of Palm Desert, CA, some thieves stole 19 solar panels from the Powell’s solar energy installation. This caused their air-conditioning bill to shoot from $3 to $300 per month for the entire summer. They were not happy.

This of course means that we, the Solar Power House owners, need to be extra vigilant in our efforts to protect our hard won greenness. Law enforcement authorities suggest etching unique identification such as driver’s license on the panels. But would you feel comfortable that personally identifiable information (potentially usable for identity theft) fall into the hands of a thief? Talk about adding insult to injury!

I would personally think etching something else uniquely identifiable, such as a combination of birth dates of family members, combination of drivers’s licenses etc. be rather used. Some enterprising Solar Power House owners are even going in for alarm and video camera installations.

By the way, for more practical tips on how to build, finance, manage and maintain Solar Power residential projects, feel free to check out my Solar Power newsletter here.

Solar Powered Housing enthusiasts – You have been warned, there is a snake in our green garden of Eden :-)

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1 comment to Solar Power House Owners – Would you like some shotguns with that?

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