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Solar Panels Stolen From Welsh Station

Loss leaves green community station running on diesel, asking for help

Copper theft has been an all-too-commonproblemforstations around the world, but gtfm Community Radio in Pontypridd, Wales, received a new — and terrible — blow from vandals: Theft of its array of solar panels.

Sometime during the night of 27 November, a bank of photovoltaic solar electricity panels were stolen from the station’s transmission site on high ground above Pontypridd.

According to the station, the panels were manufactured by Kyocera Solar and measure 1,500 millimeters × 990 millimeters each. Each panel weighs about 18.5 kilograms.

Pontypridd and Rhydyfelin Police are investigating the loss and welcome tips from the public.

gtfm Station Manager Terry Mann stated on the station Web site: “It’s not generally understood that we operate our local radio service for Pontypridd and surrounding [Rhondda Cynon Taf] communites on a charitable basis, on a shoe-string budget when compared to BBC or commercial stations — largely relying on the valliant efforts of an army of dedicated volunteers plus a handful of staff. So this is the last thing we needed on top of the tough year we’ve had finding sufficient funds to continue broadcasting due to the effects of the recession on some of our funding sources.”

Adding to the station woes, its wind turbine was damaged in a early winter storm the week prior to the theft of the solar panels.

gtfm identifies itself as the first full-time community station in the United Kingdom to power its operations to the greatest extent possible with wind and solar energy. The station switched over to renewable energy sources in 2007 and is up for an award from Wales Council for Voluntary Action/Network Wales for its pioneering energy-saving work.

Mann told the BBC that the station is having to get by on diesel fuel at the moment.