Thieves Use Google Earth to Find and Plunder Wineries’ Solar Panels

Google's "do no evil" motto fails to halt heartless bandits
"Just leave me in peace to tend to my wine" Langetwins Winery and Vineyards

Hot on the heels of news about Google’s new energy venture comes this sorrowful tale about renewable energy. NPR reports on enterprising thieves who used Google Earth to do evil, and specifically to find California wineries with solar panels for the taking.

Yes, even the criminal underworld has embraced clean tech in the 21st century. Many thieves have reportedly used trucks to simply crash winery gates and steal up to 70 panels at a time. Local sheriff deputies speculate that online tools such as Google Earth might make it particularly easy to locate possible targets — more than 400 panels worth over $1,000 each were stolen from Napa Valley vineyards in 2009.

One winery played the victim three times in one year after installing a $1.2 million array, but managed to nab the thieves the third time after installing an alarm system to back up a chain-link fence and two dogs. Now a Congressman has included a provision in the Technology Roadmap Act that would create a national registry to better track solar panel serial numbers.

Mr. Burns of The Simpsons would undoubtedly raise a glass in toast to these creative thieves, just before raising his sun-blocking energy device to the skies. But perhaps plundered wineries can take a tip from one of our past stories, and use their bad bottles of wine to create electricity and hydrogen.

[via NPR]