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Tesla secretly used & # 39; Project Titan & # 39; program to replace bad solar panel parts



  • Last summer, Tesla & # 39; Project Titan & # 39; initiated an effort to quietly replace defective solar panel parts nationwide, according to documents seen by Business Insider.
  • Tesla specifically replaced contacts and optimizers, parts that are intended to regulate the amount of energy flowing to a solar panel. Too much energy can cause a fire.
  • Earlier this week, Walmart sued Tesla, claiming that the energy company was negligent in managing the over 240 stores that had Tesla rooftop solar panels. Fires have broken out on seven of Walmart's solar roofs.
  • Walmart said in its complaint that Tesla never provided sufficient "root cause" analysis of why these fires occurred. The existence of Project Titan answers some of these questions.
  • In a statement to Business Insider, Tesla confirmed that they replaced certain parts of their solar panels, calling it "a remediation effort to limit any impact the [H-4] contact may have had."
  • To be clear, this problem affected Tesla's solar panels, not the Solar Roof shingles product.
  • Visit the Business Insiders homepage for more stories.

In the summer of 201

8, Tesla launched a massive enterprise – a stealth replacement of solar panel panels nationwide. It was called Project Titan, Business Insider has learned.

The defective parts in question were connectors – Amphenol H4 connectors – and SolarEdge optimizers. These parts should regulate the flow of energy and heat to a solar panel, and ensure that as much power goes through the part as possible without overheating. Overheating can cause a fire.

"Part of SolarCity-installed modules and optimizers from various manufacturers were made with H4 connectors from Amphenol, a part commonly used throughout the industry at the time," a spokesman for Tesla told Business Insider.

The spokesman went on to say that Tesla's software monitoring applications found that a "small number" of contacts experienced errors and disconnections that are higher than the standards allow.

Amphenol and SolarEdge did not immediately respond to Business Insider's request for comment.

"Over the past year, less than 1% of sites with this contact have shown any abnormal behavior," said a spokesman for Tesla.

"Tesla fulfills our obligations to our customers, who expect their solar installations to produce clean low-cost energy over a 10-20 year contract period. This campaign to replace any faulty contacts on these sites is Tesla fulfilling its obligation."

Business Insider was told that these affected parts were "quarantined" as part of Project Titan, and either reworked and put back on roof or discarded. One document seen by Business Insider put the number of parts that needed to be quarantined by sitting in warehouses and distribution centers in excess of 120,000 as of September 2018. A spokesman for Tesla said that number was not accurate

In the statement, Tesla Project described Titan as "a remediation effort to limit any impact the contact may have had, even though we do not know of any equipment manufacturer or regulator who has determined that there is any significant danger.

Enter Walmart. This week, plaintiff is suing Tesla. It had been a customer of SolarCity (which Tesla purchased in 2016) since 2010. In Walmart's complaint, it claims that Tesla failed to manage and maintain solar panels on hundreds of Walmart roofs around the country under their agreement, which determined that Tesla still owned all of the solar panels on Walmart's roof.

In its lawsuit, Walmart claims that Tesla's negligence resulted in fires on seven roofs in federal states. ra Ohio to California. As a result, Walmart informed Tesla of its intention to "turn off" its roofs – disconnect from Tesla's systems – May 31, 2018.

In the lawsuit, Walmart claims that Tesla installed faulty connectors, but Tesla has failed to disclose Walmart with "the root cause" of all these problems to this day. It provided analysis for just one location, in Beavercreek, Ohio.

Deactivation also did not prevent Tesla systems from firing, Walmart stated in its complaint:

In November 2018, Walmart discovered that another fire had occurred in a Walmart store in Yuba City, California, even whether the solar panels in this store had been without power since June 2018. Wires on the store's rooftops still sparked when Walmart discovered the fire and could have ignited more extensive flames, with potentially devastating consequences.

Just as disturbing, after Tesla technicians visited the roof, one of the technicians failed to close the cover of a combo box, exposing this vital equipment to the elements, thus creating a fire hazard. Still more disturbing, Walmart later learned (regardless of Tesla) that a potentially dangerous earthquake warning had occurred in the Yuba City area during the summer of 2018. Tesla either ignored the alert or deliberately failed to disclose it to Walmart. The problems that caused that basic error warning were likely to cause or contribute to the ensuing fire in the fall of 2018, revealing Tesla's complete incompetence or weakness, or both.

A former employee of Tesla, who spoke about anonymity in fear of retaliation, said that life at Tesla was chaotic, and it was more chaotic during Project Titan.

"That's how all this goes, we fix things when it comes out," said the former employee, who left earlier this year. "There is no planning ahead, there are too many fires to put out. Pun Pun."

If you have any information about Project Titan or how Tesla tried to fix its solar issues, send me an email at llopez@businessinsider.com.

Local news showed fire at a Beavercreek Walmart in March 2018
WHIO

7. March 2018, there was a fire at Tesla-owned and operated solar panel roofs at a Walmart in Beavercreek Ohio. The blaze was so bad that the store was closed for eight days, according to the complaint.

In April 2018, Tesla was still figuring out what to do with that situation. According to internal documents dated around April 24, the company was still discussing how to replace the 100 solar panel modules on the roof. The roof-mounted solar panel model was out of stock at Tesla, so employees rushed to find a compatible model.

The model ID number for the solar panels on the Walmart roof was PV-10119-255, and it would later be quarantined under Project Titan, according to internal documents.

To carry out Project Titan, Tesla ordered supplies including ladders and tool belts and dispatched crews to the United States, according to a source. The replacement parts also had to be ordered, as all H-4 connectors had to be replaced with MC4 connectors.

This did not happen at one time. Standard operating procedures had to be set, crews had to be assembled, according to the source. In December 2018, 188 Tesla trucks were shipped to nearly 50 US cities to replace defective contacts and optimizers in support of Project Titan, according to Tesla documents seen by Business Insider. Tesla declined to comment on this.

Even Walmart was still in the mix at the time, the documents show. In January, Tesla still rushed to carry out Project Titan repairs at at least one Walmart site before it could be inspected.

As of April 2019, Tesla is still refining Project Titan procedures. For example, according to an internal document from early April, Tesla mandated that all repair teams use refurbished parts as their first choice to replace damaged optimizers and contacts by the end of the month.

Tesla said that this was a factory-refurbished optimizer that had a contact other than the Amphenol H4 connector, and that the section met safety standards.

Until the day Walmart filed the lawsuit, Tesla had only inspected 29 of the over 240 locations with Tesla sunroofs on them, according to Walmart's complaint. Those reports suffered from missing papers, according to Walmart. The sites were complicated to inspect because Tesla lacked accurate drawings of parts, solar panels came from different manufacturers and had components that were labeled incorrectly, according to the complaint. Over half of the inspected sites had defective contacts – not the Project Titan MC4 connectors were intended to be in place, according to the complaint.

Tesla told Business Insider that it believes Project Titan was successful in addressing problems with the H4 connector and its higher failure rate.

But the former Tesla employee said they were not sure if Tesla was able to find and replace all the deficient optimizers and contacts across the country.

"We don't have a dedicated department to do this," they said. "Everything flows one way – create the product, sell the product, install the product … There is no maintenance, the customer should just monitor these on their mobile phone apps and call us if they have a problem."

On Thursday night, Walmart and Tesla issued a joint statement regarding the lawsuit: "Walmart and Tesla look forward to addressing all issues and providing energy to Tesla solar facilities at Walmart stores, when all parties are confident that all concerns are been addressed. "

"Together, we look forward to reading our mutual goal of a sustainable energy future," the statement continues. "Above all else, both companies want every single system to work reliably, efficiently and safely."

If you have information about Project Titan or how Tesla tried to fix its solar problems, please email me at llopez@businessinsider.com.


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