Solar panels in California. Author: Walmart Corp. License: Creative Commons. Attribution 2.0 Generic
US retailer Walmart Inc (NYSE:WMT) has lodged a lawsuit against Tesla Inc (NASDAQ:TSLA), complaining that Elon Musk’s company had demonstrated “gross negligence” when installing and operating solar panels on top of more than two hundred Walmart stores in the US.
Between 2010 and 2016, the retailer inked at least 244 solar contracts with Tesla's SolarCity Corp, whether leases or power purchase agreements (PPAs), calling for the latter to install, maintain and operate solar arrays on Walmart stores across the US. Walmart claims that Tesla had failed to live up to industry standards when executing these contracts, which resulted in fires breaking out at no fewer than seven stores as of November 2018. The retailer is positive that all fires had originated in the Tesla solar panels.
In May 2018 Walmart demanded that Tesla de-energised all photovoltaic (PV) systems installed by it at Walmart sites. This, however, did not prevent an additional fire from occurring at a store in Yuba City, California, months after the system there was de-energised.
According to Walmart, to this date Tesla has not provided the complete set of final “root cause” analyses required to identify the precise defects that caused all fires, but one. “The number of defects, however, is overwhelming and plainly indicative of systemic, widespread failures by Tesla to meet the standard of care, as set forward in the governing contracts, as to the solar systems installed at Walmart’s stores,” court documents say.
Walmart seeks a ruling by the court that forces Tesla to remove all solar PV systems installed at its locations and compensate the retailer for all damages.
The lawsuit is against Tesla Energy Operations Inc, previously operating as SolarCity Corporation. The latter was acquired by Tesla in late 2016.
Walmart took the legal action just a couple of days after Tesla unveiled an attempt to revive its struggling solar power business by introducing a new solar panel rental programme.