Forty-five Panels Smashed At Town Solar Array

By: Alan Pollock

Topics: Public Utilities

The solar array at the Chatham Transfer Station. More than three dozen of the solar panels were smashed in May. TIM WOOD PHOTO

CHATHAM – Vandals caused $46,000 in damage to solar panels at the town's capped landfill in May, according to police.

A blunt object was used to smash 45 of the photovoltaic panels, a meter and inverter components, said Lt. Michael Anderson. Security cameras in the area were not operational at the time, and there were no witnesses to the May 4 incident.

Police don't believe the incident was a random act of vandalism, however.

“We're looking into the possibility that the panels were targeted,” Anderson said. While there is fencing around the array that sits atop the capped landfill, adjacent to the transfer station off Sam Ryder Road, there are gaps that allow passage, he added.

The panels are owned by Greenskies of Middletown, Conn., a clean energy company that operates solar arrays across the country. The array includes more than 6,000 individual solar panels. Replacement of the damaged equipment happened within a week to 10 days of the incident, said Principle Projects Administrator Terry Whalen, but because a meter was also broken it took another week to 10 days for repairs to be made the system to get fully back online.

The town received net metering credits for hosting the array, which was originally developed through the Cape and Vineyard Electrical Cooperative. The transfer station array, together with three other solar arrays – at the sewer plant and the police and annex buildings – generated 2.4 million kilowatts of electricity in 2017, covering 86 percent of the town government energy demand and saving $199,000, according to the 2017 town report.

The incident was reported at 8:30 p.m. and probably occurred shortly before that, according to Anderson. The sun had gone down by then so the array was not active; had the panels been smashed during the daytime and if the object used was metal, the perpetrator could have been electrocuted, he said.

Police are still investigating the incident, Anderson said. Anyone with information about the incident can call the department at 508-945-1213, or its confidential tip line at 508-945-8847.