Pennsylvania governor Tom Wolf recently announced a major clean energy initiative that will produce nearly 50 percent of the state government’s electricity through seven new solar energy arrays totaling 191-megawatts. Pennsylvania PULSE (Project to Utilize Light and Solar Energy) is the largest solar commitment by any government in the U.S. announced to date, and part of the initiative will go into operation on January 1, 2023.

This announcement affirms the state’s commitment to supporting renewable energy and lowering greenhouse gas emissions, and it sets a major precedent for reducing the risks of climate change in Pennsylvania. It’s a move that charts a greener course for the state, setting an example for utilities, municipalities, businesses and residences to consider alternative forms of energy. But as solar arrays crop up around the state, securing the perimeter of these properties becomes a challenging yet critical effort.

Here, we’re providing some essential tips and insights for choosing solar security fencing in Northeast Pennsylvania so you can approach the project from a more informed perspective.

Safeguarding Against Theft & Unauthorized Entry

Because solar fields require a significant financial investment, safeguarding that investment is paramount. Effective protection usually begins with perimeter fencing to prevent the theft of (or damage to) valuable items like solar panels and electrical equipment. As such, it’s necessary to choose solar array fencing that features a high level of security—and that means focusing on strength, durability and height, among other elements. But whereas palisades or welded panels may afford the necessary level of strength and security, neither is well suited to the kind of rural setting usually found where solar arrays are situated in Northeastern Pennsylvania.

Chain link products are a popular choice for solar field fencing. In addition, high-tensile wires are being increasingly leveraged for their similarly light and strong nature, and their capacity to minimize shadowing over the solar panels. When locking fixed knots tie the vertical stay wires to the horizontal line wire, the result is maximum strength, integrity, stability and resistance to tampering. A zinc-aluminum or other type of coating on the fencing material can help protect against rust and corrosion, optimizing durability and longevity.

It’s important to ensure that the security fencing design for solar arrays reaches at least 75 inches in height, though 96 inches is recommended. You might also choose to add features like barbed wire, surveillance or access control gates to deter intruders and enhance overall security.

Designing For Aesthetics & Wildlife

In the rural areas of Northeast and Central Pennsylvania where solar fields are located, there is likely to be a significant presence of wildlife. Protecting the perimeter of the solar arrays doesn’t necessarily require interrupting the ecological balance, but it is vital to deter and exclude certain animals from entering the property and possibly damaging equipment. Additionally, keeping them out of proximity to the electrical units helps ensure their own safety.

With these factors in mind, you want to opt for a security fencing option that allows for certain conditions regarding wildlife. For instance, the height of the fencing as well as the spacing of the wires, posts or fencing materials should allow small predatory animals to enter and exit but inhibit access from larger, more hazardous wildlife. This is another reason why high-tensile wire and chain link are optimal for solar array fencing needs. They are strong and stable enough to secure the property and equipment while also allowing the spacing for smaller animals to come and go in the interest of controlling pests and minimizing environmental impact.

In many cases, it’s also desirable for the solar security fencing to maintain a certain aesthetic and naturally blend into the surrounding environment. High-tensile wire and chain link fencing have the unique advantage of conforming more easily to the landscape, given their ability to be pulled up over ground elevations and down into dips through the use of driven posts versus poured concrete. Overall they’re smart choices for preserving aesthetics while prioritizing security and mitigating major disturbances to the natural environment.

Conforming to Electrical Codes & Grounding Standards

The National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) is the standard for safe installation, operation and maintenance of electric power and communication utility systems. NESC grounding requirements are intended to protect people from hazardous voltages and allow protective devices to operate during a fault condition. Section 11, Rule 110(A) of the Code cites Section 9 for grounding requirements, which can be applied to solar field fencing.

It’s vital for solar array security fencing to conform to these grounding standards, including those that state where the grounding should be performed, how rods should be sized and bonded to fence posts, what type of grounding and bonding connection types should be used and more. The best way to ensure your fencing meets these standards is by working with a trained and licensed fencing expert experienced in managing fencing projects for renewable energy sources. They can provide you with the information you need to make an informed choice about your fencing product and design, as well as perform the installation according to industry practices for safety and reliability.

Learn more about how Rutkoski Fencing can help with your upcoming solar fencing project. Download our free brochure.