Tesla’s relationship with Walmart took a turn, as the latter is suing the former because they want Tesla to remove solar systems installed at 240 stores following several of them catching on fire.
Walmart had a partnership with SolarCity before it was acquired by Tesla to install large solar power systems on hundreds of stores around the country.
The retail giant has grown dissatisfied with Tesla’s service and installation of the solar system.
They state the nature of the lawsuit:
This is a breach of contract action arising from years of gross negligence and failure to live up to industry standards by Tesla with respect to solar panels that Tesla designed, installed, and promised to operate and maintain safely on the roofs of hundreds of Walmart stores.
More specifically, Walmart says that Tesla’s solar systems caused several fires at its stores.
They list seven instances of fires, which they believe originated from the solar panel systems.
One of them in 2012, one in 2016, another in 2017, and then three of the fires happened in the first half of 2018, and it eventually led Tesla to de-energize all 240 solar power systems at Walmart stores:
Fearing for the safety of its customers, its employees, and the general public, and wishing to avoid further damages and store closures, Walmart demanded on May 31, 2018, that Tesla “de-energize” (i.e., disconnect) all of the solar panel systems that Tesla had installed at Walmart sites. 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.
However, Walmart says that there was one more fire even after Tesla de-energized the systems.
One of those fires happened in November 2018 at Walmart’s Yuba City, California, store, and the retailer blamed Tesla and its solar system:
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.
Walmart believes that the entire problem has cost them $8.2 million so far between repair costs, merchandise losses, and more.
In its investigation, Walmart found that Tesla was “grossly negligent” in inspecting the site and servicing them:
Tesla inspection personnel frequently missed or improperly identified obvious and visible risks with the solar panel systems and were often negligent in performing inspections. Most glaringly, Tesla inspection personnel violated elementary safety standards by negligently stepping on modules (potentially contributing to micro-cracks), using the wrong equipment for basic tasks, and — in one instance — leaving a combiner box enclosure open and exposed to the elements after an inspection. Tesla also relied on drone flyovers and other shortcuts when inspecting sites, rather than sending qualified and properly trained solar inspectors to physically inspect solar panel systems with appropriate equipment — the established industry method for conducting thorough inspections.
Walmart also claims that Tesla’s own inspection report often found potential safety risks at dozen of sites.
The company is asking Tesla to not only cover the cost of the entire ordeal, but also to remove the solar power system at all 240 stores.
We contacted Tesla about the lawsuit and the claims made by Walmart, but we have yet to receive a response.
Here’s the complaint between Walmart and Tesla in full:
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