Amazon Echoes Walmart's Claims That Tesla Solar Panels Sparked Rooftop Fire

Photo: Ross D. Franklin (AP)

Yeesh. This has not been a good news week for Tesla subsidiary SolarCity. It seems Walmart isn’t the only one claiming that the flagging renewable energy company’s solar panels caught fire; according to a new Bloomberg report, Amazon had a similarly incendiary incident happen in 2018. A Tesla spokesperson later confirmed to Gizmodo that there was an “isolated event” at one of Amazon’s sites last year.

Per Bloomberg, the e-commerce giant said Friday that one of its warehouses in Redlands, California, also experienced a rooftop blaze connected to a SolarCity solar panel system in June of that year. And the company has since taken steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again; Amazon told Bloomberg it currently has zero plans to install any more Tesla systems at its facilities.

This news comes just days after Walmart filed a lawsuit alleging that SolarCity’s solar panels led to fires atop at least seven of its locations with incidents dating back as far as 2012. Walmart declined Gizmodo’s request for comment on the lawsuit at the time.

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“At each location, the fire had originated in the Tesla solar panels,” Walmart claims according to the lawsuit. After three such fires occurred in relatively quick succession, the company called in Tesla last year to disconnect the remaining solar panels at approximately 240 of its stores. When Tesla later carried out safety inspections on these systems in 2019, it found 157 items needing replacement or repair, “48 of which Tesla itself characterized as reflecting conditions that rendered the sites unsafe or potentially unsafe,” the lawsuit states.

On Thursday, Walmart and Tesla issued a joint statement to several outlets stating that the companies are working to resolve these issues. “Above all else, both companies want each and every system to operate reliably, efficiently, and safely,” the statement reads.

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Tesla has seen its share of the renewable energy market flounder since acquiring SolarCity three years ago, and these recent allegations aren’t the first to plague the division. Back in October, Tesla forked over a $13 million settlement after a yearslong investigation found SolarCity had been less than truthful about the cost of several installations made on behalf of the state of Oregon.

Gizmodo has reached out to Amazon and will update this article with the company’s response.

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Update: 8/24/2019, 2:19 p.m.: A Tesla spokesperson provided the following statement to Gizmodo:

“All 11 Amazon sites with solar from Tesla are generating energy and are proactively monitored and maintained.

Last year, there was an isolated event that occurred in an inverter at one of the Amazon sites. Tesla worked collaboratively with Amazon to root cause the event and remediate. We also performed inspections at the other sites, which confirmed the integrity of the systems. As with all of our commercial solar installations, we continue to proactively monitor the systems to ensure they operate safely and reliably.”

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About the author

Alyse Stanley

Nights and weekend reporter, Gizmodo.