T&D World Magazine

Oncor Uses Nanotechnology in Fight Against Copper Wire Theft

Oncor Electric Delivery will implement a new technology this summer that will both discourage would-be criminals from stealing copper from the company's substations and switchyards and help law enforcement personnel find and prosecute thieves.

The technology, which is invisible to the naked eye, marks Oncor equipment and particularly copper wire so that it can be identified after it has been stolen. Oncor will work closely with law enforcement in this effort. Areas protected with the technology will also have signs warning that material has been marked with a traceable technology.

"This is a traceable technology that will enable us to not only identify our stolen goods, but also to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law," said Rob Trimble, president and chief operating officer of Oncor. "Substations and switchyards have been the main targets for copper theft. Thieves are literally taking their lives in their hands for some spending money when they remove metal from a high-voltage area."

Not only is safety an issue for thieves, but also for Oncor employees. When protective ground wires are stolen from substations and switchyards, employees may be shocked or injured.

In addition to the nanotechnology, Oncor has taken a number of other measures to address copper theft, such as installing security systems on perimeter fences, clearing foliage away from fences, increasing security lighting to make the area more visible and replacing stolen copper with copper weld, which has the same electrical properties as copper but with less market value.

While these measures have helped decrease losses from wire thefts, Oncor continually looks for new deterrents to further prevent these crimes and help convict those who commit them. Oncor's wire theft losses were considerably lower in 2006 than in 2005, in part because of the company's proactive approach to preventing theft.

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