Solar panels are designed to make people’s lives better, save money on electricity, and be good for the environment. Tesla has a great reputation for its cars, but its solar panel division has not been so hot – or maybe it has been too hot. In 2019, Walmart filed a suit against Tesla because of its solar panels.
Most solar panels have a low risk of catching fire, so many wonder what caused the Tesla solar panels on various Walmart and other retailer roofs to catch fire. Reports have shown that Tesla’s solar panels have set ablaze buildings and homes alike, despite solar panels being relatively safe.
In addition to Walmart, Amazon also blamed Tesla’s solar panels for flames on top of their buildings, which created another hiccup for Tesla’s solar business. So what could have possibly gone wrong with Tesla’s solar panels? Read on to find out more.
Why Did Tesla Solar Panels Catch Fire?
In general, solar panels are very safe and are highly unlikely to catch fire. As a matter of fact, a 2017 report discovered that only five out of 10,000 solar panels eventually developed flaws. That is a mere 0.05 percent. Also, those are issues of one category. Panels that burst into flames would almost certainly be considerably fewer.
Contrast these figures and the way that three percent of Tesla’s solar panels on Walmart’s rooftops have gone up in flames (for example, 7 out of 240). Clearly, Tesla’s margin of failure is not simply unusual. Rather, it is pretty high and has caused a multitude of problems.
It should be noted that photovoltaic solar panels — which are the type of panels created by Tesla — cannot catch fire by themselves. However, if a photovoltaic installation has a glitch, a portion of its parts may risk becoming combustible. This was the case for Tesla’s solar panels.
The following issues are key contributors in the uncommon event of solar panel fires:
- Improperly installed panels
- Damaged or defective connectors (sensors, intersection box)
- A poorly maintained solar system
- A deteriorated system caused by unusual or constantly changing weather conditions
Improperly Installed Panels
The primary danger of a solar panel fire is specifically related to improperly installed solar panels. For example, any installation errors relating to connectors may create electrical arcing, which means the potential for overheating. If this happens, it might cause a fire.
Therefore, it is crucial to hire a solar panel expert to install solar panels to prevent a disaster. Installations can be quite complicated, so this type of home or building improvement should never be a DIY project. This is true for just about anything being installed onto a home, but especially critical for a product like solar panels.
A Faulty Photovoltaic Intersection Box
Another primary cause of a fire occurring in solar panels is connected to an overheated intersection box, which is a component that is part of the framework.
The intersection box is situated on the backside of the sun-powered board and provides electrical energy through an MC4 connector type or an overhauled variation. As the process occurs, the electrical association framework is designed to prevent a fire.
In 2012, fire occurrences were due to photovoltaic intersection boxes being built with imperfect Scheuten Multisol® modules produced between September 2009 and October 2010. Though it became a common problem during that time, this issue has luckily not reappeared thereafter.
Deteriorated Solar Panels
All things considered, solar panels deteriorate at a pace of one percent every year. That is upheld by the solar panel producer’s guarantee, which ensures:
- 90 percent of the original product materials in the initial ten years
- 80 percent by year 25 or 30
Deterioration is an ordinary, unavoidable occurrence for solar panels. However, a solar panel system that has reached its peak can still function. The panels will keep on creating energy for a long time but at a lower proficiency level. However, there is some danger in a deteriorated solar panel system, which can lead to the danger of fire.
A deterioration in its parts or connectors could cause the whole system to overheat and cause a fire. However, in the case of Tesla, deterioration is out of the question. The Tesla Roofs that were on fire were still far from consuming their entire product life. So what really happened, and could this have been prevented?
Are Solar Panels Safe?
A government report found that fires brought about by solar panels are uncommon. However, an examination of other reports from firefighters revealed that the official numbers did not tell the full story. Furthermore, solar panel fires are not consistently reported by fire departments, so exhaustive data is currently unavailable.
Solar panels are typically advertised as:
But in an ad, one will never hear that solar panels have a risk of fire. The agreement among industry specialists is that solar PV frameworks provide nothing dangerous except electrical equipment. Since solar panels have live wires, there will consistently be some kind of danger for fire, just like that of an air conditioner or a fridge.
Therefore, there should be nothing to stress about in regards to one’s solar panels, provided that they only function without defects present. Good design and proper maintenance help with this, so long as the panels are produced with quality materials.
What Is Wrong with Tesla’s Solar Panels?
Lately, Tesla’s solar panel adventure has tumbled from its once respected position to being in deep waters. Because of the defects of the solar panels manufactured by them, the company had a 70 percent drop in sales from 2016. This was according to reports from Bloomberg, which obviously points to a major issue with the organization.
What is more is that it is not simply about losing a piece of the overall industry. There is apparent and consistent lower quality in their nature of work, proven by the rising number of negative surveys received by them.
Tesla had allegedly introduced defective Amphenol connectors that could not direct warmth going into the solar panels. Therefore, the panels experienced temperature spikes that gave way to flames.
Further reports revealed Tesla technicians linked connectors that were incompatible with one another. It was said these service technicians neglected to twist the connectors satisfactorily and failed to supplant flawed connectors or appropriately fix them after their assessments, all of which brought about these hazardous conditions.
Was Panasonic to Blame for Tesla’s Solar Panel Fires?
At the end of 2016, Tesla entered into a manufacturing agreement with Panasonic. Panasonic’s solar panel innovation is by far the most efficient choice available in the market. At that time, their panels were 325-watt models with 22 percent effectiveness, aligning them with most of the premium solar board alternatives available.
In 2017, the highly anticipated solar panel product was at long last revealed to the public. In conjunction with the release, the Tesla Energy website was redone to showcase a page specifically devoted to solar panels, including other energy items like the Powerwall and the Solar Roof.
In a 2018 report by Electrek, it was reported that Tesla’s contract with Panasonic to produce panels increased altogether. Tesla’s buying of panels from other providers significantly dropped, while the portion of solar panel installations done by them with Tesla-marked panels skyrocketed in the third and fourth quarters.
Despite these claims and appearances, Tesla actually may not have been as involved with Panasonic as everyone thought. Their production area was actually set up on the other side of the building from Panasonic, and Bloomberg reported that Tesla was contracted with cheap manufacturers mostly based in China.
Tesla’s Unique Design: All Smoke and Mirrors?
Supposedly, a striking distinction between Tesla’s solar panels and other solar products is what they look like on a rooftop. Pictures of Tesla’s solar panels depict an item with a smooth, all-dark surface, echoing Tesla’s penchant for great design.
What is more recognizable is the design of the framework in its entirety. On the Tesla website, it is mentioned that their solar panels are capable of blending in, mentioning:
- Coordinated front skirts
- No noticeable mounting equipment
- Seamless aesthetic design
Panasonic also has dark, sleek panels, thus alluding to a contribution of Tesla’s design. But finding out that Panasonic may not have even helped to produce these solar panels in the first place raises other concerns. Is the Tesla solar panel system simply something that looks good on the outside but cannot deliver the quality it promises?
The Faulty Framework
Tesla’s solar panel framework is built with “skirts” that make an angled edge fold over the solar board foundation, which causes the framework to blend in better with the rooftop. The panels also can be used with the Tesla APP, permitting homeowners to check on their panels from a mobile phone or other electronic gadgets.
One of the significant advantages of any Tesla-marked item is in their ease of use. Their appeal also lies in their position on several other factors, including:
But despite all these guarantees, it is quite obvious that Tesla committed critical errors in making their product, which tarnished their reputation and put their clients at risk.
Time and time again, individuals and companies complained that Tesla did not measure up to their own standards and, instead, the framework of the solar panels was faulty. Could it be that the fires on roofs with Tesla solar panels were ultimately caused by false advertising in their “partnership” with Panasonic?
The Tesla vs. Walmart Fiasco
Walmart sued Tesla for solar panel fires at seven of its stores. In the claim, they asserted that Tesla was guilty of fundamental carelessness and neglected to submit to reasonable industry practices in installing, working, and keeping up with its solar panels. This directly impacted and heightened the danger of fire at Walmart stores.
Furthermore, in the lawsuit, the complainant claimed that Tesla, on a regular basis, sent people to review the systems that lacked fundamental solar training and information. Those who were meant to be experts turned out to not be experts at all!
They went on to say that Tesla neglected to stabilize its solar and electrical frameworks appropriately, and the solar panels at Walmart stores contained a high number of imperfections that were obvious to the unaided eye. Furthermore, they asserted that Tesla ought to have identified and fixed these imperfections before going to market.
After an investigation, it was an issue of the installation – not the way in which the solar panels were made. Tesla’s poor installation and aftercare appeared to be the main culprits. Furthermore, Tesla never clarified why the flames began in the first place but simply stated the panels experienced temperature spikes that could prompt flames.
Amazon Joins Walmart In Accusing Tesla for the Fire
Amazon.com Inc. has joined Walmart in filing a suit against Tesla for fires on the roofs of their facilities. In June 2018, they reported that the top of one of its distribution centers in Redlands, California, burst into flames due to the solar framework that Tesla’s SolarCity division introduced.
The Seattle-based retailer said that it had since found a way to secure its offices, and they had no plans to install more Tesla solar panel systems. Likewise, Tesla said in an assertion it worked with Amazon following the “isolated incident” that happened in an inverter at one of its locations.
Tesla then explained that it worked cooperatively with Amazon to address the root problem and remediate, performing investigations at different places of business. They then affirmed the integrity of the system, and ensured that each of the 11 Amazon locales was producing energy, were further under observation, and kept up properly.
The news of the Amazon building fire came days after Walmart sued Tesla, blaming it for wrongfully installed panels that created fires in excess of about six stores. The cases led to the disgrace and decline of Tesla’s solar business as the organization was battling to restore its reputation in the solar power industry.
Other Cases of Tesla Roof Fires
Briana Greer was away in August when a fire started on her housetop solar panels that she was renting from SolarCity. Neighbors helped put the fire out, but not before it damaged three panels and her rooftop. Another woman in Louisville, Colorado, has reported that her roof also caught fire just as she was returning from a vacation.
Reports, however, have exposed that these are not standalone incidents. News reports have shown that other Tesla panels all over the country have burst into flames as well. Clearly, their experiences were not a fluke but a problem on repeat.
Tesla claimed its solar panels were protected and seldom burst into flames. It further claimed the fires were significantly more prone to be brought about by home lighting and machines than its solar panels. But their claims alone do not solve the risk of fires for their customers.
These incidents further raised questions on Tesla’s resilience against other possible issues such as:
- Harsh weather conditions such as rain, wind, and snow
- Ultraviolet radiation
- Other technical issues
Before the Tesla roof fires, in 2018, it was reported that Tesla began an enormous undertaking for solar panels called “Project Titan.” The project was a huge undertaking to replace broken parts of Tesla’s solar systems installed.
The broken parts being referred to were connectors — Amphenol H4 connectors — and SolarEdge enhancers. These parts normally control the progression of energy and warmth to a sun based board, guaranteeing that whatever force is produced, the part does not experience overheating.
It appears that Tesla’s product had a modest number of connectors experiencing problems and disengagements higher than what should have been permitted.
What Really Happened with Project Titan
One previous Tesla worker, who addressed the state of obscurity, which was influenced by a fear of backlash, said that life at Tesla was in chaos, particularly during Project Titan.
Per interior records dated around April 24, 2018, the organization was all the while deciding just how to replace the 100 solar panel roof modules that had been damaged. The model of solar panel that had been on the rooftop was not in stock at Tesla, so workers were working at a furious pace to locate a viable model.
To execute Project Titan, Tesla requested supplies, including stepping stools and utility belts, and sent teams out around the US. The new parts had to be requested, too, as the entirety of the H4 connectors were to be exchanged with MC4 connectors.
These reports have created speculations that the Tesla solar panels were indeed defective and, as such, were what caused the fires. Nevertheless, Tesla declined to remark on this report.
Amphenol Denies Liability
Amphenol Corp., a major producer of electronic and fiber optic connectors for various ventures, dismissed any claims that its items caused the solar-gear fires on store rooftops that provoked Walmart Inc. to sue Tesla, Inc’s energy business.
In their statement, the company said that there was no reason for anyone to think that their products caused any of the issues. This statement was in regards to the issues between Tesla and Walmart. According to them, they are defending their product’s quality because those are:
- Manufactured to meet established industry specifications
- Certified by a third-party testing service to meet those specifications
Trying to Keep Things Underwraps
Amphenol’s name and the H4 connectors were brought in with the general mish-mash after Tesla said a couple of issues were found with gear utilized by SolarCity. Tesla procured the board installer three years prior.
The company said that a few of the connectors experienced failures and disconnections at a higher rate than their guidelines permitted, putting the rate at under 1 percent from the previous year.
Tesla knew about issues identified with its solar panels. As referenced previously, they dispatched the secret project, Project Titan, to replace what the organization said was defective “connectors” produced by Connecticut-based Amphenol.
Notwithstanding, an Amphenol representative asserted in an explanation that they deny that Amphenol’s connectors were the reason for any issues identified with the cases recorded by Walmart against Tesla. Amphenol further affirmed that they are confident about the robust quality and performance of all of their products.
Sustainable Efforts Convey Hazards
Solar panels are one of the ways for people to derive energy by using sustainable resources. For the most part, one would expect that buying solar panels means lower utility costs and more efficient electrical output.
Furthermore, most consumers would believe that purchasing from a legitimate brand, like Tesla, usually guarantees dependable products and customer care.
But sometimes, this is not always the case, as purchasing a popular product alone does not necessarily mean everything will be perfect and without defects or flaws. There may be issues with connectors or improperly installed solar panels. Like purchasing a gadget, some sort of warranty similarly applies to these solar panel systems.
In Tesla’s case, there are reports of solar panels setting ablaze homes and commercial buildings. Aside from these reports, many Tesla solar panel owners have complained that their customer support was unreliable. In addition, customers that have reported risks claimed they were left unnoticed by the company’s customer support.
How can the risk of defect be lowered in the case of solar panels? From a fire prevention viewpoint on solar panels, utilizing non-flammable materials between the panels themselves certainly helps.
Fire-retardant plates can also alleviate risk to some degree. However, in the event that the fire and temperature gather, it is not sufficient at that point. It is therefore suggested to utilize non-ignitable protection (for example, mineral fleece) to help keep at bay the spread of fire.
The National Electric Code also has required as an added security measure that solar panels should include rapid shutdowns, both to de-invigorate them and shield firemen from electric stun. Unfortunately, reported Tesla roof fires show that there is neglect on Tesla’s part to address these hazards.
Other notable steps to avoid solar panels fire hazards are:
- Follow the standards set for photovoltaic panels
- Monitor the inverters
- Carefully assemble the junction boxes at the back of the panel
The Effect on Tesla
The lawsuit, filed in New York, blames Tesla for negligence that caused its solar panel frameworks to start fires at no less than seven Walmart stores. Later that year, Amazon complained of a fire on the roof of one of its warehouses in Southern California, involving a Tesla solar panel system.
These claims may not dispense a lot of direct monetary harm on Tesla. However, the organization’s reputation could experience some serious effects considering that its huge corporate clients are prosecuting and grumbling publicly.
Last year, the Better Business Bureau received an average of 20 client complaints for every ten megawatts of solar limit introduced by Tesla, which is higher than seven times compared to the number of complaints received by its competing company, SunPower.
Even preceding the Walmart claim, Tesla’s solar business had been losing pieces of the pie. Following the negative reports, its solar business has gone down, declining by more than $24 million in 2019, after a few rounds of cutbacks that began earlier in the year. The organization is currently under the gun to get the business moving once more.
Does Tesla Still Have a Future in Solar Power… in the Auto Industry?
A fresh, out-of-the-box new Tesla might be coming soon to car dealerships. Tesla, Inc. CEO, Elon Musk, uncovered the electric-vehicle organization’s new sun-powered framed rooftops and said he hopes to be fitting in excess of 1,000 every week.
The breakthrough vehicle is valued at around $35,000, the company reported. It is another interesting promise from the controversial and innovative business person. But time will tell if Tesla and Musk will really deliver.
Tesla’s new sun-powered rooftops are not to be mistaken for the organization’s standard solar framing, which can be added to a current rooftop and contends with various comparable items. They are more costly than panels. However, Tesla contends they are less expensive than the combined expense of panels and another rooftop.
Hopefully, this new product will not catch fire like those old versions of Tesla’s solar panels. It is difficult to imagine a Tesla vehicle with its roof on fire from solar panels, making the term “hot rod” take on a whole new meaning.
Indeed, on record, solar panels are least likely to develop glitches. Thus, it is highly unlikely for them to catch fire. However, that was not the case for Tesla’s solar panels – at least not in the early stages. It appears there were some lapses on the part of Tesla in the installation of these solar panels, which has caused the fire.
Nevertheless, the occasion has brought forth new innovations for the electric car company. This has opened doors for improvements and better developments in the solar industry. In the end, Tesla is slowly redeeming itself in the solar industry as one of the leading solar providers.