The retail giant is suing Tesla alleging breach of contract after fires on the roofs of at least seven stores.
Walmart has claimed in a lawsuit that Tesla-supplied solar panels on the roofs at several of its stores caught fire because of the tech company’s “widespread, systemic negligence” and its “failure to live up to industry standards.”
The retail giant is suing Tesla alleging breach of contract after fires on the roofs of at least seven Walmart stores with solar panels installed by Tesla’s solar business. These fires, which occurred at stores in several states from 2012 to 2018, cost Walmart hundreds of thousands of dollars, said the lawsuit, filed Tuesday in a New York court.
To state the obvious, properly designed, installed, inspected, and maintained solar systems do not spontaneously combust, and the occurrence of multiple fires involving Tesla’s solar systems is but one unmistakable sign of negligence by Tesla,” the complaint said, according to CNN Business.
Walmart is seeking damages from Tesla and is demanding the company remove all of its solar panels from its stores. The retailer said that Tesla has installed panels on the roofs of more than 200 of its outlets.
Tesla has not responded to HuffPost’s after-hours request for comment.
The lawsuit comes just days after Tesla founder Elon Musk announced the relaunch of its solar rental business. The move, according to TechCrunch, appears to be an attempt by Tesla to revive the “flagging fortunes” of its renewable energy business, which has steadily been losing market share in recent years.
As Reuters noted, the Walmart lawsuit isn’t the only fire-related problem currently affecting Tesla.
The company is also being probed by the National Transportation Safety Board following several deadly accidents involving Tesla Model X and Model S cars that burst into flames.
In recent years, Walmart (WMT) installed solar panels from Tesla Energy Operations on the more than 240 stores across the country. The two companies agreed that Walmart would lease or license its roof space to Tesla (TSLA) for the solar panels in exchange for lower energy costs, and Tesla would retain ownership of the panels and handle their maintenance, the filing states. It details fires at seven stores across the country, which Walmart contends all originated in Tesla solar panels and cost the retailer millions in repairs.
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"To state the obvious, properly designed, installed, inspected, and maintained solar systems do not spontaneously combust, and the occurrence of multiple fires involving Tesla's solar systems is but one unmistakable sign of negligence by Tesla," the complaint states.
Walmart alleges that as of November 2018, seven stores had experienced fires as a result of the solar panels, with the first occurring in 2012 in Long Beach, California.
One fire, in March 2018 at a store in Beavercreek, Ohio, caused a large amount of black smoke, forcing employees and customers in the Walmart and in nearby stores to evacuate, the filing states. Walmart said the fire destroyed "significant amounts" of store merchandise, requiring thousands of dollars in replacements as well as building repairs, and the store had to close for eight days.
Walmart says two other, similar fires occurred during that month, after which point it asked Tesla to disconnect the solar panels out of fear "for the safety of its customers, its employees and the general public."
Tesla complied, but another fire occurred even after the panels were disconnected, Walmart claims. The complaint also states that Tesla's own inspections of the solar panel systems installed on Walmart roofs identified some "unsafe or potentially unsafe" conditions."
Walmart said no one was seriously injured in any of the fires.
87. Many of the Tesla solar panels inspected by Walmart were suffering from
hotspots, resulting in cracking of the back sheets on solar modules and compromising electrical
insulation. This condition compounded the danger and substantially heightened the risk of fire:
the hotspots reflected an excessive build-up of heat in the solar modules, which in turn wore
down the insulation that was designed to keep electrical currents flowing within their proper
paths and to separate electric conductors from their surrounding materials. These conditions can
readily lead to electrical fires capable of spreading across an entire rooftop.
On Friday, Amazon.com Inc. said a June 2018 blaze on the roof of one of its warehouses in Redlands, California, involved a solar panel system that Tesla's SolarCity division had installed. The Seattle-based retail giant said by email that it has since taken steps to protect its facilities and has no plans to install more Tesla systems. Tesla didn't immediately respond to a request for comment, but said earlier on Friday that it had discovered flaws in a part that the company had used in some of its systems. The part known as a "connector," manufactured by Amphenol Corp., led to "failures and disconnections at a higher rate than our standards allow," Tesla said in an emailed statement. The company has worked to replace it. 11 Amazon sites are generating energy and are monitored and maintained.
also a home problem
In 2015 SRP became anti-solar when it adopted special solar rates (E27) with some high demand charges, etc. SolarCity, later acquired by Tesla, challenged SRP’s discriminatory solar rates on antitrust grounds. SolarCity/Tesla took the case to the Supreme Court after a lower court rejected its request to dismiss the case. SRP reached a settlement with Tesla before the Supreme Court hearing, and the discriminatory fees were left in place. As part of the settlement SRP agreed to purchase a 25 megawatt/100 MW-hour battery energy storage system from Tesla. This meant that the basic reasons for the lawsuit, challenging the discriminatory rates, were not subject to court review and a chance to rule against SRP. The Center for Biological Diversity filed an Amicus brief against SRP’s motion to dismiss in order to have the Supreme Court consider the antitrust grounds.
The SRP rates have been proven to stifle rooftop solar, reducing new installations in SRP service areas while installations in other areas of Arizona increased. SolarCity claimed that SRP’s discriminatory solar rate structure is an obstacle to clean energy transition, because it undermines the value of homeowner investment in these systems. The solar rates were not examined by the courts, SRP basically claimed that it was exempt from regulation in this situation.
The Center for Biological Diversity is an Arizona-based non-profit environmental organization dedicated to the preservation, protection and restoration of biodiversity, ecosystems, and public health. On behalf of its more than 1.5 million members and online activists nationwide, including more than 890 members, and over 15,000 supporters, who live in SRP service territory, the Center advocates for a rapid transition to a clean and just energy system that optimizes renewable energy sources such as distributed solar in order to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas (“GHG”) emissions and combat climate change.
The Center filed an Amicus brief to present three discrete arguments against SRP’s motion to dismiss. First, SRP should not be permitted to rely on state action immunity to shield its discriminatory rate structure from antitrust liability, and certainly not at the pleading stage. Second, state-action immunity for utilities like SRP should in any event be constrained to open the door for distributed solar competition. And finally, SRP is violating the Equal Protection clause because its anti-solar electricity rates have no rational basis.
Charles W. Thurston has a good article on this subject in CleanTechnica:Arizona’s Salt River Project Utility Challenged On High Rooftop Solar Rates