Energy Companies Under Siege

Energy Companies Under Siege

Targets of opportunity must be protected from thieves

Scrub brush and Joshua trees dot the arid landscape where a new wave of wind and solar development is growing along the desert floor. The majestic California Sierras overlook a new forest of mega wind towers built to harness the powerful winds of the Mojave Desert into electrical energy. To most people, wind towers represent green energy and a future away from oil dependence. However, some individuals see the towers as targets of opportunity and treasure—to be stolen and vandalized.

Brent Schiebel, a premier wind equipment integrator and owner of WindTesting. com has seen his share of “green” theft over the years.

“I could not believe how quickly the equipment, solar panels, and meteorological towers were disappearing,” Schiebel said. “Since wind development has skyrocketed in the Mojave area, crime has grown right along with it.”

Solar panels are indeed targets. The sale of stolen panels is the largest growing black market in the United States, according The New York Times.

“I knew we had to do something quickly,” Schiebel said, “That’s when I started to look into industrial security companies and found Brian Levy from Hero Security and Surveillance Inc.”

Brian Levy knew he was facing a challenge.

“Protecting 30 square miles of desert is extremely difficult,” Levy said. “My client needed a surveillance solution that could stand alone, be easy to use, and cover as much of the vulnerable area as possible.”

Levy drew on his years of experience with surveillance equipment, networking and fabrication to create a standalone surveillance platform that came to life when anyone pierced its motion detection perimeter.

“The client had a serious problem, and I wanted to give them a real tool for protecting their expensive equipment,” Levy said. “The system had to be connected to the Internet in order to be effective, and it had to be intelligent and able to contact law enforcement when something was wrong. So, with the help of my team, we created a standalone solar-powered security platform called the ESP.”

ESP stands for the Electronic Surveillance Protector. The ESP is a 12-foot tall sentinel that uses advanced IR to detect human or vehicular presence.

“I knew false alarms were not going to be tolerated, so I focused on detectors with unique processing ability,” Levy said. “The whole package had to be reliable. I chose ICRealtime for their track record of offering advanced products that delivery great results.”

The towers were designed for resistance to vandalism with no external wiring and the use of security bolts and other secret methods to ensure maximum durability from tampering. The heart of the ESP tower is an ICRealtime DVR designed specifically for cold start ups, low power drain and Internet connectivity. The eyes of the system are two 600TVL day/night infrared vandal-proof dome cameras. The beauty of the tower is that the DVR and cameras can be accessed through the Internet and can support multiple users in various locations simultaneously. When the tower detects a perimeter breach, users are alerted via e-mail or text messaging.

At the core of the system is the ICRealtime PSS software platform with which users can pull up all the towers on a map and see what is occurring if an alarm is set off. This type of centralized control is essential for a having a real-time picture of the wind farm area.

“I can access each tower, make changes on the fly, and it’s because ICRealtime understands that total control of their products via the Internet is a game changer when you’re dealing with remote security equipment,” Levy said.

The towers are powered via solar panels and batteries rather than generators and fossil fuels, which means the system is as green as the energy fields it protects.

“My goal was to make the towers as durable and autonomous as possible so that my client could focus on their core business rather than worrying about maintenance and networking issues,” Levy said.

“We needed someone with a rare understanding of industrial security and the electronic countermeasures needed to protect our towers,” Schiebel said. “I knew Brian Levy has the right mixture of talent since he spends most of his time consulting for large companies like mines, power generators and large institutions. Once we described to him our dilemma, he came back to us with a plan that fit our requirements and budget.

“This was in no way an easy task, since other companies wanted to charge us far more for basic designs that offered us no added field intelligence. As I see it, the core benefit of his design is real-time status of our assets and the ability to respond in case of trouble.”

This article originally appeared in the January 2012 issue of Security Today.

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