Technology to thwart solar panel thieves

Issue 2/3 2023 Asset Management, Security Services & Risk Management, Products & Solutions, IoT & Automation


Kian Campling.

A highly efficient industrial network is coming to the rescue of the solar industry, as solar panels, inverters and batteries are being targeted by thieves and threaten to destabilise the industry.

The use of a decentralised network, based on a long-range low-power technologies, which has proliferated across the country, enables Internet of Things (IoT) devices to be used for remote monitoring of everything from temperature to air quality, and most recently, tracking devices.

Now, Lighter Than Air Network, the largest operator of the platform, with over 100 based-stations throughout the country, is providing tailor-made solutions especially to prevent solar panel theft. According to the company’s General Manager, Kian Campling, the solutions are based on industrial applications, where they are used to monitor and track anything from fresh produce to earthmoving machines, gas bottles, pallets and more.

Battery life

“Probably the biggest advantage our devices have over other GSM-based IoT devices is the low battery consumption, which can last months and years, rather than days as required by traditional GSM devices. This also overcomes the size challenge as manufacturers can install comparatively tiny batteries allowing for discreet trackers that can be hidden among wiring or behind a cover.”

“Some of our devices are not much bigger than a credit card and have the added advantage of relaying information, such as orientation of the equipment, movement and temperature to the user via computer or mobile device. The temperature application may even be valuable to solar operators to gather information about solar panel performance and safety in the event of a fire.”

“It also puts the power of tracking in the hands of the owner, as they can choose to use a security service provider, take their own steps, or use both in the event of an alarm. For example, if a panel changes its orientation or an inverter is moved then clearly there is a problem that needs to be rectified. Depending on the type of alarm it may indicate a possible theft event, fire or even storm damage etc.”

Pinpoint tracking

In the event that the panels are stolen they can be accurately tracked and live locations transmitted for several months in the unlikely event that they are hidden out of network coverage. Some of the devices even combine GSM, triangulation and other technologies to ensure tracked items can be found.

“Considering that most users will not monitor each and every panel or device, the cost of monitoring a solar system will be a tiny fraction of the cost of the system,” explains Campling.

Low cost

Lighter Than Air Network has its own proprietary monitoring software that enables larger users to monitor multiple sensors, including stand-alone security sensors, energy meters, smoke detectors, temperature, air quality and even weather sensors.

Its proprietary NviroSense software provides users with a powerful monitoring and control suite to manage IoT networks. It is also well suited to incorporate into modern day control rooms and operations offices.

For more information, contact Lighter Than Air Network, +27 10 157 5051, kian@ltan.co.za, www.ltan.co.za




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