The last several years have been rough for , Inc. Between the disappointing 2017 launch of the Tesla -powered Model 3 vehicle and the financial losses the company suffered after purchasing SolarCity back in 2016, Elon Musk and his fellow Tesla employees have had to work extra hard this year to make up for Tesla’s repeated disappointments. In an effort to revive the company, Tesla began offering solar panel rentals earlier this summer and vowed to make 2019 the year they focus on rooftop solar panel production. However, solar panel rental options and increased mass production should probably be on the bottom of Tesla’s to-do list — especially in light of their most recent controversy. 

Fires Erupt Nationwide as a Result of Faulty  

According to New York Supreme Court records, on May 7th of 2018, a fire broke out at a Walmart department store in Beavercreek, Ohio. Just two weeks later on May 21st in Denton, Maryland, a second fire raised havoc on another Walmart store, causing significant damage to the store’s roof. Just eight days after this second incident on May 29th, a third fire erupted at yet another Walmart store in Indio, California. All of these Walmart locations suffered significant financial losses as a result of these fires. Miraculously, no one was injured, save for a firefighter in Indio that was treated for smoke inhalation.  

How is it possible that numerous fires broke out at different Walmart department stores all within the time frame? The answer lies in Tesla’s solar panels. All of the Walmart stores that burst into flames had Tesla solar panels installed on their roofs. It was determined that the fires originated from the solar panels themselves, resulting in a multi-million-dollar lawsuit brought on by Walmart against Tesla.  

Following the initial three fires that occurred in May of 2018, Tesla did attempt to de-energize the solar panels at other Walmart locations to help prevent fires from happening again. Unfortunately, these efforts were to no avail. Four more fires broke out, resulting in 7 total Walmart fires that could be directly connected to Tesla’s rooftop solar panels. 

According to the official court record, Walmart is making the argument that the solar panel combustions are, “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. 

Amazon Also Calling Out Tesla

Unfortunately, Walmart was not the only entity to experience solar panel combustions. in June 2018, Amazon’s Redlands, California location had a rooftop solar system put in place that Tesla designed and installed. Shortly after the new solar panels were affixed, Amazon’s Redlands location experienced a fire. It was determined that this fire also originated from the Tesla solar panels, just like those seen at the seven Walmart locations. Amazon released a statement saying that they have taken steps to protect their facilities and will no longer be working with Tesla to install rooftop solar panels. 

Tesla: The Jack of All Trades, King of None 

Tesla has had their hand in solar production, vehicle manufacturing, and most recently, experimental rocket ships for space travel. Earlier this month, the highly anticipated launch of the Tesla SpaceX Starhopper was set to depart. However, less than one second before takeoff, the mission was aborted due to faulty wiring issuesThe Starhopper was successful on its second attempt on August 28. 

Is it really necessary for Tesla to have its hand in solar panel production, solar-powered vehicles, and space travel? By spreading themselves so thin in an effort to be number one, Tesla is now suffering the consequences of taking on too much all at once. 

It would behoove Tesla to pick one or two main focuses, rather than continue to scramble in multiple arenas. Solar energy must be taken seriously. Solar energy production is not a simple, side project endeavor. If Tesla is going to take on solar energy production, they will need to reevaluate if their company has the means and manpower necessary to provide safe solar panels en masse.  

 The full court report of Walmart Inc. V. Tesla Energy Operations, Inc. is available online to view here: https://www.scribd.com/document/422555099/654765-2019-Walmart-Inc-v-Tesla-Energy-Operations-Inc-Summons-Complaint-1 

Resources: 

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2019-08-23/amazon-joins-walmart-in-saying-tesla-solar-panels-caught-fire?srnd=markets-vp 

https://interestingengineering.com/tesla-solar-panels-have-caught-fire-at-an-amazon-warehouse-and-at-walmart-stores 

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