Solar panels stolen from Carbondale Rec Center recovered in Aspen
ASPEN, Colorado ” The 30 solar photovoltaic panels stolen from the Carbondale Recreation Center last week were recovered outside an Aspen residence Monday morning, police said.
The 30 panels were loaded on a flat-bed truck that was parked outside of a multi-family residence, according to Carbondale Police Chief Gene Schilling. The owner of the truck is a suspect in the case, he said. Police were trying to obtain an arrest warrant Monday afternoon. Schilling said he was waiting for the District Attorney’s Office to approve the warrant, then it would be submitted to a Garfield County judge to sign.
The suspect’s name wasn’t released Monday. Schilling labeled the suspect “a frequenter of the Aspen area” and said both the Aspen and Carbondale police departments have had prior contact with the individual. Schilling is confident there will be an arrest in the case.
“The charge will be possession of stolen property,” he said.
There is no proof yet that the suspect stole the panels, but police are working to establish a case, he added.
There is no evidence that the suspect worked for a solar installation firm, Schilling said, but he did attend an installation class offered by Carbondale-based Solar Energy International an unknown time ago.
The theft occurred either late Sunday, May 24, or early on Memorial Day. The 30 panels were taken from among 288 installed on the recreation center roof. The system offsets some of the energy consumption of the facility.
The crime was pulled off next door to the police station in Town Hall. Some people wondered how it could have gone unnoticed. Town officials explained that the portion of the roof where the panels were taken is hard to see and access. The theft was discovered the following Wednesday by a worker with the recreation department.
The break in the investigation came after much publicity about the heist in local media. A Carbondale resident contacted town authorities last weekend with a tip that she spotted the flat-bed truck parked outside of the recreation center the night of the theft. She was familiar with the truck and its owner.
Police in Carbondale pursued the lead and learned that Aspen police had a contact address for the suspect, who is staying with a friend in Aspen. Officers in Aspen drove by the residence at about 2 a.m. Monday and spotted the flat-bed truck in the parking lot of a multi-family residence, Schilling said. They also spotted what appeared to be solar panels.
Police obtained a search warrant Monday morning and confiscated the panels at about 6 a.m. Serial numbers confirmed that the recovered panels were those taken from the recreation center.
The panels were returned to Carbondale and pictures were taken of the serial numbers. If the District Attorney’s Office agrees, all but one panel will be re-installed as soon as possible, Schilling said. One panel will be kept for evidence in case of a trial.
Carbondale Town Manager Tom Baker said it will cost an estimated $10,000 to reinstall the panels. The cost will be covered by the town’s insurance. Schilling said restitution also is possible if there is a conviction in the case.
It is unknown if the suspect acted alone. “He has not admitted the theft,” Schilling said.
Solar PV panels are roughly 3-by-5 feet and can weigh between 30 and 50 pounds. The panels had to be transported down ladders and loaded on a truck. It is unknown why 30 panels, and not more, were targeted. Maybe the sun was coming up and the thief or thieves felt they had to leave, Schilling said.
The person providing the tip about the truck has refused reward money up to this point, Schilling said. A $1,000 reward was offered.
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