Copper Theft: A Billion Dollar Problem
It’s 4 a.m. on a Monday morning and you are driving to your job site to continue construction on a new substation. You arrive as the sun is rising only to find that the fence to your material storage area is cut and your copper wire is gone. Sound familiar?
It should, as this is a situation that is becoming all too common at wind and solar farms, substations, and other electrical sites across the United States.
Copper theft has increased dramatically in the past few years and the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that annual losses exceed $1 Billion. The reason copper theft is so popular is due to its wide availability as a building material and the fact that its price has increased by more than 500% over the past ten years. In the power industry, copper theft has become an increasing problem on new and completed projects alike.
The problem is copper theft can impact a power project in many ways beyond just the cost incurred to replace the material. The theft can impact:
- Safety – Stealing copper poses an enormous safety risk for construction crews, field technicians, maintenance personnel, the public, and the thieves. Major injury or death can occur as a direct result of copper theft.
- Cost – Once copper has been stolen you have to replace the stolen equipment, and that is much more expensive than the scrap price. You also have to repair any damage to your facilities and your infrastructure.
- Project schedules – Once the copper is gone, it is not so easy to replace. Copper theft during the construction of a new facility can cause significant delays to the project schedule depending on the type of cable stolen.
- Security – The impact of copper theft is far reaching and it poses a serious threat to critical infrastructure. FBI officials have begun charging some copper thieves with stronger federal crimes due to the impact that their actions have had on surrounding electrical, communications, and emergency infrastructure.
Next week, I will cover some of the solutions we believe can be used to curb this problem on job sites.
Content by Wanda Reder
Tags: copper theft
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