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Walmart is suing Tesla over solar panel fires at seven of its retail stores

By Humza · 10 replies
Aug 21, 2019
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  1. In a lawsuit filed by Walmart against Tesla Energy Operations, a subsidiary of the company formerly known as SolarCity, the retail giant has stated a breach of contract after several of its stores suffered from fire damage allegedly caused by faulty Tesla solar panels, reports Bloomberg.

    Citing Tesla's "years of gross negligence and failure to live up to industry standards," Walmart recalled multiple fire incidents in the past at its stores in Ohio, Maryland and California that caused millions of dollars worth of losses for the company and closure of its stores for several days.

    Walmart says the stores in these locations "were three of more than 240 stores where Walmart had leased or licensed its roof space to Tesla for the installation, operation, and maintenance by Tesla of photovoltaic (I.e., solar) systems," notes Walmart and that Tesla, which designed the panels, "represented them as safe, reliable, and an environmentally conscious way for Walmart to reduce its energy costs."

    Walmart says that the contract between the two companies as a result of this business shows Tesla retaining the ownership of the solar systems and that it "promised to design, install, inspect and maintain them non-negligently and in accordance with prudent industry practices, and agreed to handle every aspect of the solar panels' operation on Walmart's roofs in a non-negligent manner," giving Walmart the right to enjoy perpetually safe and reliable solar panel systems and making the company "free of any operation or maintenance responsibilities," which it says "fell entirely on Tesla."

    The lawsuit further notes that by May 2018, Tesla was clearly in breach of its contractual obligations and even to the present day, it has not provided Walmart with the complete set of final "root cause" analyses for identification of defects in its solar panels.

    Later that month, the retail giant asked Tesla to "de-energize" all solar panels installed across Walmart sites to which Tesla complied "conceding that de-energization of all the sites was "prudent" and recognizing that it could provide no assurances that the deficiencies causing its systems to catch fire were confined to particular sites or particular components."

    These measures however, weren't enough to prevent additional fires as one of Walmart's stores in Yuba City, California, caught fire in November 2018 despite being de-energized since June 2018.

    Wires on the store's rooftop were still sparking at the time that Walmart discovered the fire and could have ignited more extensive flames, with potentially devastating consequences. Equally troubling, after Tesla technicians visited the rooftop, one of the technicians failed to close the cover to a combiner box, exposing this important piece of equipment to the elements and thereby creating a fire hazard. Still more troubling, Walmart subsequently learned (independent of Tesla) that a potentially dangerous ground fault alert had occurred at the Yuba City site during the summer of 2018. Tesla either ignored the alert or deliberately failed to disclose it to Walmart. The issues that caused that ground fault alert likely caused or contributed to the subsequent fire in the fall of 2018, revealing Tesla's utter incompetence or callousness, or both.

    The lawsuit comes just days after Tesla CEO Elon Musk announced a new rental offering for solar power to boost the company's ailing renewable energy business that could only manage to install 29 megawatts of solar power in its Q2 2019 (record low in a single quarter). Tesla's stock dipped by 1% after the news went out with the company yet to officially respond to the lawsuit, shown below in full:

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  2. QuantumPhysics

    QuantumPhysics TS Evangelist Posts: 1,624   +1,219

    Someday Solar Panels will be of high-enough quality for this to not happen.

    This is the first I've heard of these fires.

    I get calls all the time asking me to buy Solar. My Electric bill isn't so significantly high that I want to go into any debt to buy solar panels and unless I had the Tesla Powerwall, I can't store energy for a blackout or power outage so to me, it doesn't make sense.
     
  3. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 4,205   +2,482

    This is definitely another black eye for Musky. My bet is that somewhere in the mix, there are "installers" that should not be working as installers as "sparking wires" can be caused by not securing the connections properly. However, as I see it, this is what Musky gets for trying to jump in on a fad and probably trying to pay his help as little as possible.

    I would not buy a tesla power wall if you paid me. You would be better off buying a set of deep cycle batteries and a charge controller that runs at the voltage of your solar panels/battery array.

    If you get into this at all, I highly recommend reading about it first, and perhaps the very best source is the book "Wind Power" by Paul Gipe. https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/wind-power-paul-gipe/1123806771?ean=9781603581639 The book is extremely good at laying out all the details for wind and solar power.

    Musky has got his head squarely where the sun does not shine - in other words, his own confidence in himself is way overrated; I would not be surprised if he were suffering from Dunning-Kruger syndrome https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dunning–Kruger_effect and, in my not so humble opinion, people have invested way too much confidence in him. To me, he certainly does not deserve other people's confidence simply because of the fact that Tesla is still leaking money like a huge water main break.
     
    mbrowne5061 and rondean2000 like this.
  4. JaredTheDragon

    JaredTheDragon TS Guru Posts: 637   +410

    And this is what happens when electrical engineers simply have no idea what electricity even is, to begin with. Imagine that.
     
  5. IAMTHESTIG

    IAMTHESTIG TS Evangelist Posts: 1,769   +837

    Wow that sucks... I would think wiring would be the more likely cause of electrical fires. And how does something still catch fire if it is "deenergized"? Me thinks it didn't get completely disconnected. Or maybe it was all poor installations, who knows. I'm sure we'll learn more later. Not a good start for Mr. Musk's green energy sell.
     
  6. Uncle Al

    Uncle Al TS Evangelist Posts: 5,705   +4,044

    ROFLMAO ..... now it's just a momentary thought but ..... you don't suppose that Musk might have accidentally shipped them a box of flamethrowers they were selling two years ago rather than those solar panels, do you? Naaaaaaaa ...... well, maybe .....
     
  7. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 4,205   +2,482

    That's why the computer you used to write this message all of a sudden blew up in flames when you hit enter - because electrical engineers know nothing of electricity! :laughing:
     
  8. Lifeispossible

    Lifeispossible TS Enthusiast Posts: 27

    Sadly innovators are so vulnerable to sabotage and lawsuits that follow. Prayers go out to Elon Musk and Tesla that big coal doesn't kill solar like big gas killed the ev1.
     
  9. CloudCatcher

    CloudCatcher TS Member

    NASA doesn’t understand gravity either - it is not necessary to completely understand something to be able to work with it, as long as you have a sufficiently accurate theoretical model.
     
    wiyosaya likes this.
  10. Irata

    Irata TS Enthusiast Posts: 36   +35

    I don't think you can de-energize solar panels unless you cover them. You can disconnect them from the electric system but as long as they are exposed to light, they will continue to produce electricity which makes them so dangerous for fire fighters.

    Additionally, their weight increases load on the roof so in the case of a large scale fire, the roof can collapse faster.
     
  11. wiyosaya

    wiyosaya TS Evangelist Posts: 4,205   +2,482

    Now crApazon is claiming the same thing. Maybe it was not the installers, but wiring insufficient for the current load in the panels themselves. I would not put it past Musky to skimp in the name of pretending to make a profit.
     

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