With green technology on the rise, law enforcement says there is a growing trend in theft of solar panels.
The Reno Christian Fellowship, in south Reno, used to pay $24,000 a year for energy. But now the church gets all of its power from solar panels. Some of which were stolen, back in March.
"One of our members was walking his dog out here, came and found the fence ripped up and the panels on the back had been taken out," Senior Pastor Brent Brooks said. "So, we were rather stunned. We weren't expecting it, at all."
Almost $20,000 worth of solar panels were taken. Luckily for them, insurance covered the cost, still leaving the church to pay the $1,000 deductible. The thieves have not been caught.
"They were skilled," Brooks said. "They came to a live electrical operation. They knew how to take them out. They were knowledgeable in the field, definitely."
"We've installed approximately 50,000 solar panels and we've never had one stolen," Reid Hamilton said.
Hamilton Solar is a local business that has taken measures to slow down someone that is trying to steal solar panels.
"We're using what's called a blockhead security bolt," Hamilton said. "So, you need a special type of bolt and a special type of bit to be able to get those panels off."
Hamilton says most people that steal them actually use them for setting up their own off-grid system, usually in a rural area. But it's not always home or commercial panels that are stolen. Small solar panels, on street signs and lights, are the most common targets for people looking to make a quick grab.
"Those are small enough panels where somebody could steal one of those and put it on their RV or put it on their trailer," Hamilton said.
Every solar panel has a serial number and can be tracked and experts say buyers should always be aware.
"If anybody's going to buy a solar panel that's been previously been used, ask for a proof of purchase or require that you find that from somebody," Hamilton said.
The Reno Christian Fellowship has taken steps to make it harder for someone to steal from them again and Brooks says anyone that owns solar panels should do the same.
"I would take whatever security measures you can and be aware that it is an attractive target," Brooks said.
Northern California has also seen an increase in this crime over the past few years. Places like schools and wineries have been victimized. Here at home, even the City of Reno saw 18 panels stolen from a Stead location.
If you have any information on the thefts, call Secret Witness at 322-4900 or text your tip to 847411. Your call will remain anonymous.