Carbondale’s solar panel caper |

Carbondale’s solar panel caper

John Gardner
Glenwood Springs correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

CARBONDALE ” Jeff Jackel was shocked to discover that 30 photovoltaic solar panels were stolen from the roof of the Carbondale Recreation Center earlier in the week.

“Right off the public building, it’s unbelievable,” said Jackel, the Carbondale recreation director. “We are taken aback by the whole thing.”

Not only is it a public building but the Carbondale Police station is right next door.

Jackel said Friday that he suspects the panels were taken sometime in the early morning hours on Monday, May 25 ” Memorial Day. Each of the panels are valued at $1,000, totaling about $30,000.

According to Jackel, an employee, Eric Brendlinger, spotted that the panels were missing while replacing a repelling mechanism at the top of the facilities’ climbing wall Wednesday.

“He thought the wind blew them off,” Jackel said.

If Brendlinger had not been replacing the rope on the climbing wall, they may have not noticed that the panels were missing for much longer, Jackel said.

“We would have noticed them eventually,” Jackel said. “There would have been a drop in the solar output of the panels.”

They monitor the amount of solar energy put back into the grid-tied system and that would have given them an indication something was off.

The building’s roof is fitted with close to 280 solar panels. The 52 kilowatt system provides about two-thirds of the facilities’ annual electricity needs, so the loss of 30 panels won’t effect the facilities’ electricity.

The stolen panels were taken from an area of the roof where the panels are not visible from the ground.

However, according to Sol Energy President and owner Ken Olson, the thieves must have had some knowledge about the solar systems to pull off this heist. Sol Energy was the contractor who installed the photovoltaic system.

“It’s my impression that they have some knowledge,” Olson said. “They weren’t in unfamiliar territory.”

Olson was contacted pretty quickly after the panels were reported missing, to check out the system.

He said that in the area where the panels were taken from, there really isn’t a good vantage point for anyone on the ground to see people on the roof at night.

Each panel weighs 35 pounds and would be easy enough for someone with a wrench to take off the building and lower to the ground with a rope.

Olson, said that the panels would easily fit into another system.

“Anybody can take the 30 panels and they will work anywhere they put them in the sun,” Olson said. “Anyone with some knowledge can take them and reconfigure them into another system.”

Jackel said that they are already trying to replace the panels, and that the cost should be covered by the city’s insurance policy.

Police stated that they have some leads in the case but have no suspects at this time.