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Solar panels a hot commodity for thieves

Published: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 4:02 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, August 11, 2009 at 4:02 p.m.

Sebastopol police are searching for clues in a case of missing solar panels believed to have been stolen from the rooftop of one of Sebastopol’s “green” businesses.

The panels are worth approximately $24,000 and were reported missing from Sebastopol Hardware Center on Gravenstein Highway Friday morning, Officer Nick Belliveau said.

Police believe a suspect or suspect climbed onto the business’ roof with a ladder in the early hours of Friday morning, detached a row of 24 panels, and took them.

A ladder that did not belong to the hardware store was left behind at the scene.

It is likely the panels were taken to be sold whole, Belliveau said.

The entire solar energy system cost $500,000 to install in 2005 and generates 42 kilowatts of energy, said Mike Bishop, owner of Sebastopol Hardware Center.

Bishop said he recognized that the panels could be attractive to thieves when he installed them, but still opted to publicize their installation in an effort to promote environmentally responsible building. Steps have been taken to secure remaining panels and those missing will be replaced, he said.

No fingerprints were found on the ladder or the roof and no suspects have been identified, Belliveau said.

Police are looking for surveillance video from nearby businesses that may show the Hardware Center’s roof.

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