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Solar Panels on Roof

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Floating Solar Panels
Solar Panels Technician

01

mybroadband.co.za

South African private security giant Fidelity ADT has warned homeowners about rising solar panel thefts.

In light of severe load-shedding in the past few months, an increasing number of households are investing thousands of rands in solar and battery backup systems.

In addition to helping them stave off power cuts, it can also reduce their electricity bills.

But according to Fidelity ADT’s head of marketing and communications, Charnel Hattingh, the company had observed that backup energy products had likewise become more appealing to criminals.

“Over the past few weeks, we have received reports of solar panels being stolen from properties, typically during the day whilst homeowners are at work,” said Hattingh.

Hattingh said it was important to make it as hard as possible for criminals to successfully carry out their plans on private property.

“As criminals continue to shift and change their patterns and behaviour, it is essential that homeowners keep up with trends and better ways to secure their homes,” Hattingh said.

Firstly, she advised homeowners to keep yards well-lit at all times and have proper barrier security installed.

02

IOL

Durban - Forget burglar guards and razor wire on your windows and walls: South Africans will have to find innovative ways (car guards anyone?) to safeguard their rooftops from thieves determined to keep them in the dark.

Lurjing in the country’s dark underbelly are entrepreneurial criminals, who have found new ways to render the population powerless.

Solar panels, one of the more expensive but most cost-effective ways to keep the lights on, are being stolen from rooftops in broad daylight.

Security companies and solar panel installers say the weight of solar panels and the complexity of installing them has not deterred thieves who have found a lucrative market born out of desperation.

Installing Solar Panels
Installing Solar Panels

03

Myles Illidge

With solar panel theft on the rise, South African residents with solar power systems must insure and protect their equipment.

King Price Insurance’s client experience partner Wynand van Vuuren says solar panel theft is a growing trend, and he only expects it to escalate as more South Africans push to improve their energy security.

The rapid uptake of solar power solutions, combined with the theft of components, has set the foundation for a booming black market trade for entire panels and the scrap value of their parts.

According to King Price, R3.6 billion worth of solar panels was estimated to be imported to South Africa during the first quarter of 2023.

For reference, this is more than half the value of solar panel imports throughout 2022.

Van Vuuren’s statements come after Solarise Africa co-founder and COO Sakkie van Wijk warned that South Africa’s booming solar power market has started to attract crooks.

Van Wijk said they are seeing dubious transactions with multiple layers of supply chains that add markups and kickbacks, leading to inflated project costs and compromised installations.

“We’ve even found large deals that were concluded with mere handshakes and absolutely no paperwork — no scope, so service level agreements, no system specifications — this is typically at least double the actual cost,” he said.

“We urge everyone in the process of adopting solar to scrutinise every aspect of the deal.”

King Price’s Van Vuuren also explained that a certified technician must install your solar power system and issue a certificate of compliance.

“If you’re going to install solar panels, or any alternative power supply, it’s critical that they’re installed by an accredited electrician, you get a certificate of compliance, and you let your insurer know once the system is in place and operational,” he said.

“You must also increase your insured value accordingly.”

Solar panels and inverters should be covered under building insurance, or home contents cover if you don’t own the building.

“Speak to your insurer to get the best cover for your solar installation,” Kind Price advises.

Van Vuuren also provided tips for protecting your solar equipment from being stolen:

  • Adequate perimeter security is essential. This includes proper fencing or walling, an electric fence, garden beams, and motion-sensing lights.

  • Don’t leave your tools and garden equipment out. This can provide criminals with the equipment needed to access and steal your solar panels. For instance, leaving a ladder lying around gives them direct access to your roof.

In February 2023, security giant Fidelity ADT warned that incidents of solar panel theft were on the rise.

04

MANDISA NYATHI

has opened a market for solar panel theft across the country, according to experts. 

South Africa has seen a surge in alternative power systems as state-owned utility Eskom fails to meet the energy demand, with rolling blackouts taking place daily because of frequent breakdowns at Eskom power stations.

Experts who spoke to the Mail & Guardian warned that load-shedding has created high demand and consequently a “massive” black market for solar panels.

Forensic investigator Calvin Rafadi said that solar panel theft was increasing because the parts were easy to remove.

“Criminals use a spanner to unscrew the panels. They usually wait for the targeted house owners to be out during the night and come with the ladder and remove the panels to sell on the black market, similar to what happens in the copper cables industry,” he said.

Fidelity Services Group head of communications Charnel Hattingh said the security company had responded to numerous theft incidents involving solar panels and batteries.

“The thieves have enough time to dismantle the system before leaving the property. Stolen items are, in our experience, often sold to people who are looking to use them as scrap materials or as their own alternative energy source,” she said.

Insurer King Price’s Wynand van Vuuren said that solar panel theft had become a trend that was likely to escalate.

Auto & General’s chief executive officer Ricardo Coetzee said they had also seen an increase in home break-ins, and that load-shedding was one of the contributing factors.

“Solar-panel theft is an emerging trend, one that we are keeping an eye on,” he said.

The insurers added that some customers reported that they suspected the panels were stolen by the same company that had installed them.

However, De Wet Taljaard, solar energy technical specialist at the South African Photovoltaic Industry Association, said a serial number is laminated on the solar panel cells.

“This makes it difficult to remove the serial information without damaging the panel beyond repair. Unfortunately, the serial information is often placed on stickers or displayed via non-permanent methods and can be removed with relative ease. However, the serial information is also saved on the software of the inverter, and access to the software can be password-protected by the authorised installer,” he said.

Solar Panels Technicians
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