Last year, Tesla initiated 'Project Titan' — a stealth nationwide program to replace solar panel parts that could cause fires (TSLA)

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  • Last summer Tesla
    initiated ‘Project Titan,’ an attempt to quietly replace defective
    solar panel parts nationwide, according to documents viewed by
    Business Insider.
  • Specifically, Tesla was replacing connectors and optimizers,
    parts that are meant 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 solar panels on their roofs. 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 happened.
    Project Titan’s existence answers some of those questions.
  • In a statement to Business Insider Tesla confirmed that they
    were replacing certain parts of their solar panels, calling it  “a
    remediation effort to limit any impact the [H-4] connector may have
    had.”
  • To be clear, this issue impacted Tesla’s solar panels, not its
    Solar Roof shingle product. 
  • Visit Business
    Insider’s homepage for more stories
    .

In the summer of 2018 Tesla initiated a massive undertaking —
a stealth replacement of solar panel parts nationwide. It was
called Project Titan, Business Insider has learned.

The faulty parts in question were connectors — Amphenol H4
connectors — and SolarEdge optimizers. These parts are supposed
to regulate the flow of energy and heat to a solar panel, ensuring
that as much power goes through the part as possible without
overheating. Overheating can lead to a fire. 

“A portion of SolarCity-installed modules and optimizers from
various manufacturers were made with H4 connectors from Amphenol, a
part that was commonly used across the industry at the time,” a
Tesla spokesperson told Business Insider.

The spokesperson went on to say that Tesla’s software-monitoring
applications found a “small number” of the connectors experienced
failures and disconnections higher than their 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 connector
have exhibited any abnormal behavior,” a Tesla spokesperson
said.

“Tesla honors our commitments to our customers, who expect their
solar installations to reliably generate clean, low-cost energy for
their contract term of 10-20 years. This campaign to replace any
faulty connectors at these sites is Tesla fulfilling that
commitment.”

Business Insider learned that these impacted parts were
“quarantined” as part of Project Titan, and either reworked and put
back on roofs or scrapped. One document viewed by Business Insider
put the number of parts that needed to be quarantined sitting in
warehouses and distribution centers at over 120,000 as of September
2018. A Tesla spokesperson said this number was not accurate 

In its statement, Tesla described Project Titan as “a
remediation effort to limit any impact the connector may have had,
even though we are not aware of any equipment manufacturer or
regulator that has determined any substantial hazard exists.”

Enter Walmart. This week the
retailer filed a lawsuit against 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 according to their agreement, which stipulated that Tesla
still owned all of the solar panels on Walmarts roofs.

Walmart claims in its lawsuit that Tesla’s negligence resulted
in fires on seven roofs in states from Ohio to California. As a
result, Walmart informed Tesla of its intent to “de-energize” its
roofs — disconnect Tesla’s systems — on May 31, 2018.

In the lawsuit, Wal-Mart claims that Tesla installed faulty
connectors, but Tesla has failed to provide Walmart with the “root
cause” of all of these issues to this day. It provided analysis for
only one site, in Beavercreek, Ohio.

De-energizing didn’t stop the Tesla systems from catching fire
either, Walmart stated in its complaint:

In November 2018, Walmart discovered that yet another fire had
occurred at a Walmart store in Yuba City, California-even though
the solar panels at this store had been de-energized since June
2018. Wires on the store’s rooftop were still sparking at the time
that Walmart discovered the fire and could have ignited more
extensive flames, with potentially devastating consequences.

Equally troubling, after Tesla technicians visited the rooftop,
one of the technicians failed to close the cover to a combiner box,
exposing this important piece of equipment to the elements and
thereby creating a fire hazard. Still more troubling, Walmart
subsequently learned (independent of Tesla) that a potentially
dangerous ground fault alert had occurred at the Yuba City site
during the summer of 2018. Tesla either ignored the alert or
deliberately failed to disclose it to Walmart. The issues that
caused that ground fault alert likely caused or contributed to the
subsequent fire in the fall of 2018, revealing Tesla’s utter
incompetence or callousness, or both.

One former Tesla employee, who spoke on the condition of
anonymity for fear of reprisal, said that life at Tesla was
chaotic, and it was more chaotic during Project Titan. 

“That’s how all this goes, we fix stuff as it comes out,” the
former employee, who left earlier this year, said. “There is no
planning ahead, there are too many fires to put out. Pun
intended.”

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

Walmart roof fire Tesla beavercreek

One fire in Ohio

On March 7th of 2018, there was a fire on the Tesla owned and
operated roof of solar panels on a Walmart in Beavercreek Ohio. The
blaze was so bad the store was closed for eight days, according to
the complaint. 

In April of 2018, Tesla was still figuring out what to do about
that situation. According to internal documents dated around April
24th, the company was still deliberating how to replace the 100
solar panel modules that had been damaged on the roof. The model of
solar panel that had been on the roof was not in stock at Tesla, so
employees were rushing 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 end up under quarantine during
Project Titan, according to internal documents. 

In order to execute Project Titan, Tesla ordered supplies
including ladders and tool belts and sent crews out around the
United States, according to a source. The replacement parts had to
be ordered as well, as all of the H-4 connectors were to be
replaced with MC4 connectors.

This didn’t happen all at once. Standard operating procedures
had to be set, crews had to be put together, according to the
source.  In December of 2018, 188 Tesla trucks were sent out to
almost 50 US cities to change out faulty connectors and optimizers
in support of Project Titan, according to Tesla documents viewed by
Business Insider. Tesla declined to comment on this. 

Even Walmart was still in the mix at that point, the documents
show. In January Tesla was still rushing to make Project Titan
repairs at at least one Walmart location before it could be
inspected.

As late as April of 2019 Tesla was still fine-tuning the Project
Titan procedures. For example, according to one internal document
from early April, Tesla mandated that all repair teams use
refurbished parts as their first choice to replace damaged
optimizers and connectors by the end of the month. 

Tesla said that this was a factory refurbished optimizer that
had a different connector than the Amphenol H4 connector and that
the part met its safety standards. 

Up to the day Walmart filed its lawsuit, Tesla had only
inspected 29 of the over 240 sites with Tesla solar roofs on them,
according to Walmart’s complaint. Those reports suffered from
missing paperwork, according to Walmart. The sites were complicated
to inspect because Tesla lacked accurate drawings of parts, solar
panels came from various manufacturers and had components that were
labeled wrong, according to the complaint. Over half of inspected
sites had defective connectors — not the MC4 connectors Project
Titan was meant to put in place, according to the complaint. 

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

But the former Tesla employee said they were not sure if Tesla
was able to to find and replace all of the defective optimizers and
connectors nationwide. 

“We don’t have a dedicated department to do this stuff,” they
said. “Everything flows one way — make the product, sell the
product, install the product… There is no maintenance, the
customer is just supposed to monitor these on their cell phone apps
and call us if they have a problem.”

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

SEE ALSO: Tesla
is now facing its most dangerous adversary yet, and it could be
proof that buying SolarCity was a huge blunder


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Source: FS – All Tech News
Last year, Tesla initiated 'Project Titan' — a stealth nationwide program to replace solar panel parts that could cause fires (TSLA)