INTERNATIONAL - Walmart sued Tesla, claiming it failed to live up to industry standards in the installation of solar panels on top of hundreds of stores, resulting in multiple fires across the US.
The retailer said it had leased or licensed roof space on top of more than 240 stores to Tesla’s energy operations unit, formerly known as SolarCity, for the installation and operation of solar systems. But as of November, fires had broken out at no fewer than seven of the stores, forcing the disconnection of all the solar panel systems for the safety of the public.
Walmart’s inspectors found that Tesla “had engaged in widespread, systemic negligence and had failed to abide by prudent industry practices in installing, operating and maintaining its solar systems,” according to a breach-of-contract complaint filed on Tuesday in New York State court. Walmart is pushing to source 35percent of its electricity from renewable sources by 2020.
The company has more than 350 on-site solar installations and has signed contracts to add more than 120 new installations by next year, it said in its 2019 report on environmental, social and governance goals. The company didn't reply to a request for comment on whether those totals include the Tesla systems.
Tesla is best known for its electric cars, but its solar unit acquired in 2016 had sought to sell solar power plus batteries for storing electricity to commercial businesses eager to reduce their electricity bills and carbon footprints. Walmart was an early customer of SolarCity’s rooftop solar panels as well as Tesla’s batteries, and has pre-ordered the company's electric Semi truck, which is not yet in production. The retailer’s inspectors saw dangerous connections at several locations, according to the complaint.