Walmart and Amazon Sue Tesla Over Solar Panel Fires and Unqualified Workers

by | Aug 27, 2019 | industry news

Tesla’s solar panels have been going up in flames, and Walmart and Amazon aren’t having it.

Walmart filed a lawsuit last week alleging that Tesla, Inc installed dangerous rooftop electric systems which caused rooftop fires at seven stores in Maryland, Ohio, Colorado, and California. Walmart said in their complaint, “Properly designed, installed, inspected, and maintained solar systems do not spontaneously combust.” They state that the solar panels were fine, but Tesla’s practice of hiring unqualified subcontractors to install the panels has resulted in dangerous, potentially deadly electrical problems.

After Tesla inspected the systems and found no root cause for the fires, Walmart filed suit alleging gross negligence and the use of untrained local contractors with insufficient knowledge of solar panel systems. Tesla agreed to disconnect the remaining systems at other stores, but one store in Yuba City, CA, caught fire even though its rooftop panels had been disconnected for five months! Independent investigators found that Tesla didn’t sufficiently secure loose wires.

solar panel installation dallasAmazon Joins the Fray

As if Tesla wasn’t having a rough enough week, Amazon disclosed that its warehouse in Redlands, CA, caught fire last June – and a shoddy Tesla/Solar City solar panel installation was the cause. Amazon has since said it will not install Tesla’s panels on any of its other warehouses, though they are already installed at 11 others.

Who’s to Blame?

How did this problem get so out of hand? Tesla has been inspecting their systems at Walmart and Amazon locations, and so far they have found hundreds of safety violations due to poor installation and lack of maintenance. The problem seems to come from systems that were installed by subcontractors who didn’t know how to properly set up a solar panel array. So why would Tesla use unqualified workers on such huge commercial projects?

In 2016, Elon Musk purchased Solar City, a solar panel business on the verge of failure that was founded by to of his cousins. The move was very controversial, and Tesla shareholders largely disapproved. They predicted the purchase wouldn’t make money and would in fact hurt Tesla’s bottom line. It seems that they were right; Tesla shelled out $13 million last October to settle lawsuits over Solar City’s misrepresentation of installation costs in Oregon.

Soon after, Tesla aimed for massive growth in Solar City’s commercial installations. Tesla has gone on record stating there were not enough qualified subcontractors to meet the demand. Walmart’s lawsuit accuses Tesla and Solar City of adopting “an ill-considered business model that required it to install solar panel systems haphazardly and as quickly as possible in order to turn a profit.”

Walmart “quickly discovered that Tesla routinely deployed individuals to inspect the solar systems who lacked basic solar training and knowledge,” and didn’t know “how to conduct inspections or how to use simple tools.”

What Does the Future Hold?

For now, Walmart and Tesla have agreed to work things out. Tesla made a statement saying it has inspected the other 11 Amazon sites, and the solar panel systems are in good working order. It will be interesting to see how the lawsuits play out.

Kosmos Solar: Your North Texas Solar Panel Experts

Let the Walmart and Amazon fires be a cautionary tale. Never trust an unknown contractor to install your solar panels. At Kosmos Solar, we are proud to have a 5-star rating from our customers and a certification from the North American Board of Certified Energy Professionals (NABCEP). When you hire our team, you can be sure you’re hiring a trusted solar panel authority with years of experience. Call us today to schedule your free solar energy evaluation in Dallas, Fort Worth, or anywhere across North Texas!