THIEVES have stolen metal from 20 wind turbines in France, it has been reported.
A highly organised network of criminals break into the turbines and climb up to the engines, which can be up to 40m from the ground, to steal up to a tonne of metal in every crime.
Le Figaro reports that wind farms in sparsely populated areas are being particularly targeted, as thieves have less chance of being caught.
An unnamed police officer told the paper: “They cut the power to turn off the engine propeller motor.”
The officer said that the thieves break in through the doors at the base of the turbines, and use the stairs inside to reach the engine at the top.
“Using shears and makeshift tools they cut and rip out the metal wiring, which is mostly copper,” he said.
A tonne of copper is estimated to be worth around €4,500.
According to Le Figaro, at least 20 incidents have been recorded recently. Two successful raids and one foiled attempt were reported in March in the south of the Eure-et-Loir alone. A spate of thefts from turbines were reported at the end of last year in Picardy, especially in the Oise.
Turbine operators have installed video surveillance systems, while police have begun patrolling larger wind farms with helicopters equipped with cameras.
Between 2012 and 2013, reported metal theft cases in France rose by almost 17.9%, from 11,811 to 13,923. Copper made up 65% of the stolen metal.