The Tesla/Walmart Rooftop Solar Fire Spat — Part Deux, & Enter Amazon

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Last week, we ran two stories about a dispute between Tesla and Walmart over fires that have occurred on the roofs of Walmart stores with Tesla rooftop solar systems. For our trouble, we were accused of being Tesla lovers, Tesla haters, and possibly accomplices to the assassination of Archduke Ferdinand in Sarajevo.

The story behind the story has turned into a massive public relations disaster, not only for the two companies but for the broader clean energy revolution. There’s nothing the fossil fuel industry likes better than being able to point and say, “See? Those newfangled solar panels are a threat to society and should be banned!”

Apparently, the glare of the media spotlight got a little too intense for both companies. A few days after the flareup between them began, they issued a joint statement meant to bridge the troubled waters their dispute has created. Here is the statement in its entirety as supplied to CleanTechnica by a spokesperson for Tesla.

“Walmart and Tesla look forward to addressing all issues and re-energizing Tesla solar installations at Walmart stores, once all parties are certain that all concerns have been addressed. Together, we look forward to pursuing our mutual goal of a sustainable energy future. Above all else, both companies want each and every system to operate reliably, efficiently, and safely.”

Walmart’s suit is still pending in New York state court according to Tech Crunch, but the parties have decided to lower the temperature of their rhetoric in order to create an atmosphere where reasonable discourse may have a chance to take place.

So, Is This Over?
Not Quite

Now Amazon has stepped into the fray, telling Bloomberg that its warehouse in Redlands, California, also experienced a fire on a roof where a SolarCity/Tesla solar system was installed. Gizmodo reached out to Tesla about the Amazon claim and got this response from a spokesperson:

“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.”

That statement is all well and good, but Amazon tells Bloomberg it currently has zero plans to install any more Tesla systems at its facilities. It may add more rooftop systems, but they won’t be from Tesla — as things stand now.

Say what you will, Tesla’s solar panel business is facing some troubles, and Amazon was more than willing to pile on the bad news. In my opinion, it all makes Tesla’s the decision to purchase SolarCity in the first place seem unwise, at least in retrospect.


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Steve Hanley

Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."

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