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Thieves Drunk on Napa Valley Winery Solar Panels

winery imageWhile Napa Valley wineries have been adding solar panels in unprecedented numbers, the solar arrays have posed an easy target for thieves in the night.

From June of 2008 through September of 2009, more than 400 solar panels have been stolen from Napa Valley area wineries, reports the Napa Valley Register.

With each panel worth about $1,000, that amounts to $400,000 in losses. The thefts have come in 14 separate incidents.

Law enforcement officials were able to stop two robberies in progress.

To help stem the losses, state Rep. Mike Thompson (D-St. Helena), added provisions against solar thievery to the Solar Technology Roadmap Act. If adopted, the act would mandate a solar equipment serial number registry.

Having twice fallen victim to solar theft, ZD Wines began adding super-sticky “Property of ZD Wines” stickers to its panels.

Brett de Leuze, President of ZD Wines, said “it was not in our consciousness to think people would steal them.”

Harris Ranch Napa Valley had 30 panels stolen in September, while Honig Vineyard and Winery has been hit multiple times.

The thefts have benefited at least one area business. Sunlock Solar Security Systems has been doing a “booming” business lately, said Dan Sullivan, owner. Sunlock’s alarms cost anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000.

Solar owners are encouraged to install rooftop systems, instead of simple ground-mount solar panels, to discourage theft. Additionally, solar owners should consider chain link fences around their properties, as getting the bulky panels over the fences can be a deterrent.

In the past several years, numerous Napa Valley wineries added solar.

Grgich Hills winery in Napa Valley worked with SPG Solar on a PV installation that produces 170.08 kilowatts DC of electricity during peak production hours.

Napa Valley’s Merryvale Vineyards has a 277kW solar electric system for Starmont Winery that generates enough clean electricity each day to power 78 average homes.

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