The number of solar parks in Europe is increasing as the demand for renewable energy is rising. Many of these solar parks are in remote locations, so protecting them properly can be a challenge. One of the security companies that have come up with an answer to this challenge is Reading, UK, based Westronics Fire & Security Ltd. To ensure good visibility of intruders in the surveillance system, even at night or in adverse weather conditions, Westronics includes thermal imaging cameras in its solar park protection systems.

“We have been installing closed circuit television (CCTV) systems ever since the technology was released to the public in the early ‘80s but CCTV cameras run into severe limitations when it comes to nighttime operation and certain weather conditions”, explains Westronics’ Managing Director Graham Miller. “Thermal imaging cameras are sensitive to electromagnetic radiation in the infrared spectrum, which is emitted by all matter as a function of its temperature. They need no light whatsoever to function, making them perfect for nighttime surveillance".

Based on the recorded intensity of infrared radiation they produce clear, high contrast images, regardless of lighting conditions. Sun glare, shadows, smoke, rain, fog, all of these factors can render CCTV cameras useless, but FLIR thermal imaging cameras are not hampered by these conditions. They can be used to see in complete darkness, through smoke and light fog.

Thermal imaging: an obvious choice

According to Miller the choice for FLIR thermal imaging cameras was obvious. “These sites need to be protected day and night. Since they are in remote locations there is no street lighting present, so for CCTV cameras to be effective during the night we would have to install additional lighting. This would not only increase the energy consumption of the security system, which obviously needs to be avoided, especially at a solar power plant, but would also have an unacceptable impact on the local wildlife, as these are protected green belt areas. FLIR thermal imaging cameras provide very high quality imagery, without the need for lighting. That is why we selected the FLIR PT-313 thermal imaging camera system for several recent solar farm protection projects. These particular camera models are very easy to incorporate in our security systems, as they are compatible with the standard TCP/IP protocols we use for our systems network designs.”

“The FLIR PT-313 thermal imaging camera system contains both a thermal imaging camera and a visual CCD camera”, continues Miler. “ At first we mainly used the thermal imaging camera for nighttime surveillance, but we discovered that these thermal imaging cameras also enhanced the surveillance during the day. Whilst the visual CCD camera included in these multi-sensor camera systems is excellent, we soon found that apart from limitations like sun glare and fog, obscurants like the foliage of undergrowth can also hide intruders from view. Tests showed, however, that the foliage does not entirely camouflage the body heat of intruders from the thermal imaging camera. This allows the control room operators to track the movements of intruders even if they try to hide in the bushes.”

''The FLIR PT-313 thermal imaging
camera contains both a thermal
camera and visual CCD camera''

FLIR PT-313 thermal imaging camera system

The thermal imaging camera included in the FLIR PT-313 thermal imaging camera system contains an uncooled Vanadium Oxide (VOx) microbolometer detector that produces crisp thermal images of 320 x 240 pixels. The FLIR PT-313 thermal imaging camera can be used to detect a man-sized target from a distance of up to 880 meters, ensuring that no intruder will go unseen. The pan and tilt platform allows the user to rotate the camera 360° continuously and to tilt it +90° or -90° and with its extremely rugged housing, which meets IP66 requirements, the thermal imaging camera’s vital core is well protected against both dust and water ingress.

The FLIR PT-313 thermal imaging camera systems are installed at three solar parks, one in Wiltshire and two in Cornwall. The security systems at these locations have three layers of defense. “The first layer of defense is a standard fence”, explains Miller. “Apart from deterring intruders this fence keeps out wildlife, to limit the unwanted alarms.” The second layer is an invisible virtual fence of microwave detection between the actual fence and the solar panels. The third layer consists of the thermal imaging cameras, which are installed in strategic locations on four meter high posts, covering the entire area.

Triggering the alarm

“If an intruder climbs over the fence and enters the area between the microwave transmitter and receiver a difference will be detected in the beam, which triggers an alarm”, continues Miller. “The alarm is sent to the corresponding Alarm Receiving Center (ARC). Simultaneously the thermal imaging cameras are automatically pointed towards the area where the intrusion was detected, proving a wide angle view of the area.”

Flir PT-313 cameras can distinguish
between an alarm triggered by
or a true security breach by

The thermal and visual footage from the FLIR PT-313 thermal imaging camera systems is recorded by a standard hard disc recorder and simultaneously shared with the ARC through a secure broadband connection. “The operators of the ARC can remotely operate the cameras to provide the best view of the possible intrusion, switching between day and thermal cameras as the weather and lighting conditions dictate”, continues Miller. “The ARC staffcan warn off would be intruders with the on-site public address (PA) system which provides an audible deterrent to casual intruders. If appropriate, the ARC staff can also deploy a mobile patrol or report the incident to the police. The footage recorded on the digital video recorder can be passed on to the police as evidence.”

Visual confirmation is crucial

Although the microwave intruder detection system can be excellent for intruder detection, according to Miller it is also notoriously susceptible to unwanted alarms caused by large animals or certain weather conditions. “For that reason a visual confirmation of alarms is crucial to provide a robust security solution. The FLIR PT-313 thermal imaging cameras provide exactly that. They allow the ARC to accurately distinguish between an alarm triggered by animals or a true security breach by intruders, regardless of lighting and weather conditions.”

The thermal imaging equipment for this installation was supplied by the FLIR Platinum level distribution partner CCTV Center. ”Westronic’s system design and strategic placement of the FLIR thermal PTZ cameras has created a benchmark solution for both perimeter protection and measured area surveillance within the site; day and night, and under all weather conditions", adds CCTV Center's Technical Director Tim Cocks. "Their solution has been rightly recognized by the industry and serves as a 'best practice' model for similar sites within the energy and utilities sector.”

Download PDF version Download PDF version

In case you missed it

What Are New Trends In Residential Security?
What Are New Trends In Residential Security?

Residential security and smart homes are rapidly changing facets of the larger physical security marketplace, driven by advances in consumer technology and concerns about rising crime rates. During the COVID-19 pandemic, many people spent more time at home and became more aware of the need for greater security. As workplaces opened back up, returning workers turned to technology to help them keep watch over their homes from afar. We asked this week’s Expert Panel Roundtable: What are the trends in residential security in 2021?

How Businesses Can Protect Their People In The New Age Of Work
How Businesses Can Protect Their People In The New Age Of Work

Ensuring employee health and safety remains a key priority for organizations this year, especially as we see COVID-19 cases continue to rise in different areas of the world. As an ongoing challenge, COVID-19 has shifted the priorities of many organizations. In fact, “improving health and safety for employees” is the top strategic goal this year of manufacturing and logistics organizations in the U.S. and U.K., according to research conducted by Forrester on behalf of STANLEY Security. But as we think about reopening and as hybrid workforce models and “workspace-on-demand” approaches rise in popularity, leaders need to consider implementing the right technologies to help ensure a safe return to the office. This means investing in health, safety, and security solutions that can help leaders protect their people. The intersection of security technology and health and safety There’s no doubt that the scope of security has expanded in the wake of the global pandemic. What was once an area governed by a select few security or IT professionals within a business has now become a crucial company investment involving many key stakeholders. The role of security has expanded to encompass a broader range of health and safety challenges for businesses Additionally, the role of security has expanded to encompass a broader range of health and safety challenges for businesses. Fortunately, security technologies have made significant strides and many solutions, both existing and new, have been thrust forward to address today’s biggest business challenges. Investment in security technology It’s important to note that businesses are eager to adopt tech that can help them protect their people. Nearly half (46%) of organizations surveyed by Forrester report that they’re considering an increasing investment in technology solutions that ensure employee safety. Technologies like touchless access control, visitor management systems, occupancy monitoring, and installed/wearable proximity sensors are among some of the many security technologies these organizations have implemented or are planning to implement yet this year. Facilitating a safe return to work But what does the future look like? When it comes to the post-pandemic workplace, organizations are taking a hard look at their return-to-work strategy. Flexible or hybrid workforce models require a suite of security solutions to help ensure a safer, healthier environment More than half (53%) of organizations surveyed by Forrester are looking to introduce a flexible work schedule for their employees as they make decisions about returning to work and keeping employees safe post-pandemic. Such flexible – or hybrid – workforce models require a suite of security solutions to help ensure a safer, healthier environment for all who traverse a facility or work on-site. One of the central safety and security challenges raised by these hybrid models is tracking who is present in the building at any one time – and where or how they interact. Leveraging security technology With staggered schedules and what may seem like a steady stream of people passing through, it can be difficult to know who’s an employee and who’s a visitor. Access control will be key to monitoring and managing the flow of people on-site and preventing unauthorized access. When access control systems are properly integrated with visitor management solutions, businesses can unlock further benefits and efficiencies. For instance, integrated visitor management systems can allow for pre-registration of visitors and employees – granting cellphone credentials before people arrive on-site – and automated health screening surveys can be sent out in advance to help mitigate risk. Once someone reaches the premises, these systems can also be used to detect the person’s temperature and scan for a face mask, if needed.  We will likely see these types of visitor management and advanced screening solutions continue to rise in popularity, as 47% of organizations surveyed by Forrester report that they’re considering requiring employee health screening post-pandemic. Defining the office of the future A modern, dynamic workforce model will require an agile approach to office management. It’s imperative to strike the right balance between making people feel welcome and reassuring Businesses want to create an environment in which people feel comfortable and confident – a space where employees can collaborate and be creative. It’s imperative to strike the right balance between making people feel welcome and reassuring them that the necessary security measures are in place to ensure not only their safety but also their health. In many cases, this balancing act has created an unintended consequence: Everyone now feels like a visitor to a building. Protocols and processes With employees required to undergo the same screening processes and protocols as a guest, we’ve seen a transformation in the on-site experience. This further underscores the need for seamless, automated, and tightly integrated security solutions that can improve the employee and visitor experience, while helping to ensure health and safety. Ultimately, the future of the office is not about what a space looks like, but how people feel in it. This means adopting a “safety-always” culture, underpinned by the right technology, to ensure people that their safety remains a business’ top priority. 

Access The Right Areas - Making A Smart Home Genius With Biometrics
Access The Right Areas - Making A Smart Home Genius With Biometrics

Household adoption of smart home systems currently sits at 12.1% and is set to grow to 21.4% by 2025, expanding the market from US$ 78.3 billion to US$ 135 billion, in the same period. Although closely linked to the growth of connectivity technologies, including 5G, tech-savvy consumers are also recognizing the benefits of next-generation security systems, to protect and secure their domestic lives. Biometric technologies are already commonplace in our smartphones, PCs and payment cards, enhancing security without compromising convenience. Consequently, manufacturers and developers are taking note of biometric solutions, as a way of leveling-up their smart home solutions. Biometrics offer enhanced security As with any home, security starts at the front door and the first opportunity for biometrics to make a smart home genius lies within the smart lock. Why? Relying on inconvenient unsecure PINs and codes takes the ‘smart’ out of smart locks. As the number of connected systems in our homes increase, we cannot expect consumers to create, remember and use an ever-expanding list of unique passwords and PINs. Indeed, 60% of consumers feel they have too many to remember and the number can be as high as 85 for all personal and private accounts. Biometric solutions strengthen home access control Biometric solutions have a real opportunity to strengthen the security and convenience of home access control Doing this risks consumers becoming apathetic with security, as 41% of consumers admit to re-using the same password or introducing simple minor variations, increasing the risk of hacks and breaches from weak or stolen passwords. Furthermore, continually updating and refreshing passwords, and PINs is unappealing and inconvenient. Consequently, biometric solutions have a real opportunity to strengthen the security and convenience of home access control. Positives of on-device biometric storage Biometric authentication, such as fingerprint recognition uses personally identifiable information, which is stored securely on-device. By using on-device biometric storage, manufacturers are supporting the 38% of consumers, who are worried about privacy and biometrics, and potentially winning over the 17% of people, who don’t use smart home devices for this very reason. Compared to conventional security, such as passwords, PINs or even keys, which can be spoofed, stolen, forgotten or lost, biometrics is difficult to hack and near impossible to spoof. Consequently, homes secured with biometric smart locks are made safer in a significantly more seamless and convenient way for the user. Biometric smart locks Physical access in our domestic lives doesn’t end at the front door with smart locks. Biometrics has endless opportunities to ease our daily lives, replacing passwords and PINs in all devices. Biometric smart locks provide personalized access control to sensitive and hazardous areas, such as medicine cabinets, kitchen drawers, safes, kitchen appliances and bike locks. They offer effective security with a touch or glance. Multi-tenanted sites, such as apartment blocks and student halls, can also become smarter and more secure. With hundreds of people occupying the same building, maintaining high levels of security is the responsibility for every individual occupant. Biometric smart locks limit entry to authorized tenants and eliminate the impact of lost or stolen keys, and passcodes. Furthermore, there’s no need for costly lock replacements and when people leave the building permanently, their data is easily removed from the device. Authorized building access Like biometric smart locks in general, the benefits extend beyond the front door Like biometric smart locks in general, the benefits extend beyond the front door, but also throughout the entire building, such as washing rooms, mail rooms, bike rooms and community spaces, such as gyms. Different people might have different levels of access to these areas, depending on their contracts, creating an access control headache. But, by having biometric smart locks, security teams can ensure that only authorized people have access to the right combination of rooms and areas. Convenience of biometric access cards Additionally, if building owners have options, the biometric sensors can be integrated into the doors themselves, thereby allowing users to touch the sensor, to unlock the door and enter. Furthermore, the latest technology allows biometric access cards to be used. This embeds the sensor into a contactless keycard, allowing the user to place their thumb on the sensor and tap the card to unlock the door. This may be preferable in circumstances where contactless keycards are already in use and can be upgraded. Smarter and seamless security In tandem with the growth of the smart home ecosystem, biometrics has real potential to enhance our daily lives, by delivering smarter, seamless and more convenient security. Significant innovation has made biometrics access control faster, more accurate and secure. Furthermore, today’s sensors are durable and energy efficient. With the capacity for over 10 million touches and ultra-low power consumption, smart home system developers no longer have to worry about added power demands. As consumers continue to invest in their homes and explore new ways to secure and access them, biometrics offers a golden opportunity for market players, to differentiate and make smart homes even smarter.