Latest security device – tag your copper

A UK utility is to borrow an idea from the wider security community to combat a growing and potentially dangerous problem – copper theft from electrical substations

S cottishPower is to use a pioneering forensic security system in an attempt to reduce or eliminate the theft of copper components from substations. The utility is the first in the country to use SmartWater to tackle the UK wide problem of copper theft, which has also affected many schools and churches, as well as the London underground rail system. A large substation can supply more than 30 000 homes and businesses with their power and the theft of copper earthing cable and terminals can leave people without electricity for a considerable length of time.

Despite the fact that substations are securely locked, thieves are nonetheless managing to break in, putting themselves and the lives of others in danger by exposing potentially fatal high-voltage equipment – and all for relatively little or no financial reward.

ScottishPower is deploying a number of forensic systems, developed by the Smartwater company to include property marking and anti-intruder spray systems, to protect substations within the towns of Widnes, St Helens and Warrington. Every police station within Merseyside and Cheshire has been supplied with a UV detection suite to identify traces of SmartWater, which fluoresces brightly under ultra-violet light and can be detected on items of property as well as on skin and clothing.

John Boyer, maintenance manager for ScottishPower, said: “We take the safety of the general public as well as our own staff very seriously, so SmartWater is being used to deter thieves from targeting our substations. Electricity kills and these people are putting lives at risk every time they break in.”

Indelible trace

SmartWater marking can withstand a range of intensely wearing operating conditions, making it virtually impossible to remove. Furthermore, no two systems have the same forensic code, meaning criminals can be irrefutably linked back to the scene of individual crimes. The code would also provide absolute proof of ownership of property. This has enabled SmartWater to provide the crucial evidence for over 400 criminal prosecutions, and they have so far maintained a 100% conviction rate.

Police forces across the UK are now actively conducting trace searches for SmartWater, greatly increasing the chances of detection, arrest and subsequent conviction. As part of this operation, police will be pro-actively working with scrap metal dealers to educate them about SmartWater, ensuring they are not unwittingly handling stolen metal. Rewards will also be offered for the reporting of stolen metals.

Mr Boyer said: ‘We are delighted to be working with local police forces as part of this crime prevention initiative. This represents a key component in our campaign to combat criminals targeting our substations and it is reassuring to know that the police are equipped to detect these markers in the event of any criminal activity. This is just the start of our working relationship with SmartWater and we are looking forward to catching the criminals who attack our equipment and risk people’s lives.’

Superintendent Mark Harrison, of Merseyside Police, said: ‘We take the issue of theft from substations very seriously, particularly because of the potential risk to public safety. With that in mind offenders need to be aware that if they target a substation that is protected by this system of marking there is no escape as the evidence is undeniable.’

Tougher than ever

R odless actuator supplier Tolomatic has added an ultra-durable model to its recently introduced MXE electric actuators product platform. Developed with Tolomatic’s own ‘endurance technology’, the MXE design includes the following features, claimed to make them the most reliable, long-lasting products on the market.

•Durable bearings. The profiled rail design uses THK ‘caged ball’ technology to reduce friction and extend actuator life in high load and moment applications. The trapezoidal solid bearing design reduces stress concentration by 59% for millions of what the maker calls maintenance-free cycles.

•Durable bands. Non-wear stainless steel bands are magnetically retained and protect internal components from contamination, increasing uptime and reducing maintenance. This design has demonstrated its superiority through rigorous life testing in extreme load and speed conditions.

Other features include multiple screw technologies with a choice of solid or ball nut configurations, internal magnets that allow sensor installation in any orientation on the open side or bottom of the extrusion, and a choice of either inch (US standard) or metric mounting options.

In addition, all MXE actuators are available in reverse parallel or in-line motor mounting configurations. Tolomatic’s ‘Your Motor Here’ programme, which allows customers to select a motor mount to fit hundreds of motor models, is available with all in-line mounting selections. Suitable mounting hardware is supplied free.