Walmart is suing Tesla after its solar panels allegedly went on fire

21 Aug 2019

Image: © tl6781/

Walmart has alleged in a lawsuit that Tesla’s solar panels were improperly installed and, as a result, went on fire at seven of the company’s stores.

Walmart is suing Tesla, the electric vehicle and clean energy company headed up by controversial CEO Elon Musk, after the company’s solar panels allegedly caught fire at seven stores dotted around the US.

CNBC reports that the suit, filed in the state of the New York, claims: “As of November 2018, no fewer than seven Walmart stores had experienced fires due to Tesla’s solar systems.” The filings allege that the fires led to evacuations, damaged property and damaged inventory, and Tesla’s stock is reported to have dropped by more than 1pc as a result.

Walmart claimed that Tesla deployed individuals who “lacked basic solar training” to inspect the systems and that Tesla failed to ground its solar and electrical systems properly. As a result, Walmart is asking a court to force Tesla to remove solar panels from more than 240 of its US stores.

Tesla’s solar business comes through its subsidiary SolarCity, which it merged with in 2016. The deal proved controversial at the time, as the company was founded by Musk’s cousins and the entrepreneur was the biggest shareholder in both Tesla and SolarCity at the time. The Walmart lawsuit has alleged that Tesla bought SolarCity to “bail out the flailing company”.

Since the acquisition, the company’s share of the solar market has declined and last year it lost its status as the leading residential solar company.

Just a few days ago, it was revealed that Tesla is relaunching its solar power efforts, which will now include a ‘Rent Solar’ option that will allow residents of six US states to pay a monthly fee of $50 for solar panels in lieu of the upfront cost of purchase. There is no long-term contract, however requesting the removal of the panels and the restoration of one’s roof will cost $1,500.

Tesla could not be reached for comment by at time of reporting. A spokesperson from Walmart said that the company has nothing to add beyond the complaint it has filed.

Updated, 2:43pm, 21 August 2019: This article was amended to add comments from a Walmart spokesperson.

Eva Short was a journalist at Silicon Republic