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Tesla has used the secret program "Project Titan" to replace faulty solar module parts



  • Last summer, Tesla initiated the "Project Titan", an attempt to quietly replace defective solar module parts nationwide, according to documents seen by Business Insider.
  • In particular, Tesla replaced connectors and optimizers, parts designed 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 had negligently managed over 240 shops selling Tesla solar panels on the rooftops. Fires have broken out on seven of Walmart's solar roofs.
  • Walmart said in his complaint that Tesla has never provided a sufficient "root cause" analysis of why these fires occurred. The existence of Project Titan answers some of these questions.
  • In a statement to Business Insiders, Tesla confirmed that they were exchanging certain parts of their solar modules, calling this "a remedial measure to limit the impact that the [H-4] connection might have."
  • It is clear that this problem concerned Tesla's solar panels and not the product "solar roof shingle".
  • For more information, visit the Business Insider homepage.

In the summer of 201

8, Tesla launched a massive endeavor – a nationwide stealth replacement of solar module parts. 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 designed to regulate the energy and heat flow to a solar panel and ensure that as much energy as possible flows through the part without overheating it. Overheating can cause a fire.

"Some SolarCity-installed modules and optimizers from different manufacturers were made with Amphenol H4 connectors, a part that was industry-wide at the time," a Tesla spokesman told Business Insider.

The speaker went on to say that Tesla's software monitoring applications found that a "small number" of connectors had errors and breaks above acceptable levels.

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

"Last year, less than 1% of sites with this connector behaved abnormally," said a Tesla spokesman.

"Tesla is fulfilling our commitments to our customers, who expect their solar systems to reliably generate clean and cost-effective energy for their contract period of 10 to 20 years, and this commitment to replace faulty connectors at these sites is filled by Tesla's commitment."

Business Insider learned that these affected parts were "quarantined" under Project Titan and either reworked and returned to roofs or scrapped. In a document considered by Business Insider, the number of quarantined parts was estimated at over 120,000 in September 2018. A Tesla spokesman said that number was incorrect.

In its statement, Tesla described the Titan project as "a remedy to limit the potential impact of the connector, although we do not know of any device manufacturer or regulator who has determined that there is a significant risk."

Enter Walmart. This week, the retailer filed a lawsuit against Tesla. The company has been a SolarCity customer since 2010 (which Tesla bought in 2016). Walmart's lawsuit alleges that Tesla failed to manage and maintain solar panels on hundreds of Walmart rooftops across the country as agreed, and what Tesla still required had all the solar panels on Walmart's roofs.

Walmart claims in his lawsuit that Tesla's negligence led to fires on seven roofs in states from Ohio to California. As a result, Walmart Tesla informed on May 31, 2018 about his intention to "unlock" his roofs – to separate Tesla's systems.

In the lawsuit, Walmart claims that Tesla has installed faulty connectors, but Tesla did not do so with Walmart's "cause" of all these problems until today. The analysis was performed only for one location in Beavercreek, Ohio.

The shutdown of the power supply has also not helped the Tesla systems catch fire, as Walmart noted in his complaint:

In November 2018, Walmart found that in a Walmart store in Yuba City, California, even another fire had occurred The solar modules in this business were de-energized since June 2018. By the time Walmart discovered the fire and could have ignited larger flames, wires on the roof of the shop were firing with potentially devastating consequences.

Equally disturbing was the fact that one of the technicians was unable to close the cover of a combination box after visiting the Tesla technicians on the roof, exposing this vital piece of equipment to the elements and creating a fire hazard. Even more disturbingly, Walmart later learned (independently of Tesla) that a potentially dangerous ground fault alert had occurred at the Yuba City site in the summer of 2018. Tesla ignored the alarm or intentionally did not hand it over to Walmart. The problems that caused this baseline error alarm probably led to the subsequent fire in the fall of 2018, or helped reveal Tesla's utter incompetence, or callousness, or both.

A former Tesla employee speaking for fear of reprisal on the condition of anonymity said Tesla's life was chaotic and more chaotic during the Titan project.

"That's how it all works, we fix things as they come out," said the former employee who had left this year. "There are no plans in advance, there are too many fires to extinguish them, pun intended."

If you have information about Project Titan or would like to know how Tesla resolved its solar issues, please email llopez@businessinsider.com.

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

Am March 7, 2018, there was a fire on the Tesla powered solar roof on a Walmart in Beavercreek Ohio. The fire was so bad that the shop was closed for eight days, according to the complaint.

In April 2018, Tesla was still considering what to do in this situation. According to internal documents of April 24, the company was still thinking about how the 100 solar modules damaged on the roof should be replaced. The solar model on the roof was out of stock at Tesla, so staff quickly searched for a compatible model.

The model ID number for the solar modules on the Walmart Roof was PV-10119-255 and was later quarantined internally later during the Titan Project.

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

This did not happen all at once. Standard work instructions had to be set and the crews assembled according to the source. In December 2018, 188 Tesla trucks were sent to nearly 50 US cities to replace defective connectors and optimizers to support the Titan project. This is clear from Tesla documents viewed by Business Insider. Tesla declined to comment.

Even Walmart was still in the mix at this time, as the documents show. In January, Tesla still hurried to make repairs to Project Titan at at least one Walmart site before they could be inspected.

In April 2019, Tesla worked on the fine-tuning of the Project Titan process. For example, according to an internal document from early April, Tesla has mandated that all repair teams must use outdated parts as their first choice to replace damaged optimisers and connectors by the end of the month.

Tesla said that this was a factory-obsolete optimizer that had a different port than the Amphenol H4 connector and that the part met its safety standards. By the time Walmart filed his lawsuit, Tesla had, according to Walmart's complaint, inspected only 29 of the more than 240 sites with Tesla solar roofs.

These reports suffered, according to Walmart, from missing papers. The construction sites were complicated to inspect because Tesla had no accurate drawings of parts, solar panels from different manufacturers and the components were labeled incorrectly according to complaint. More than half of the sites inspected had broken connectors – not the MC4 connectors project Titan had planned for.

Tesla told Business Insider that Project Titan has successfully resolved issues with the H4 connector and higher error rates.

However, the former Tesla employee said he was not sure if Tesla was able to find and replace all the broken optimizers and ports nationwide.

"We do not have our own department to do these things," they said. "Everything flows in one direction – make the product, sell the product, install the product … There is no maintenance, the customer should monitor it only on his mobile apps and call us if he has a problem." Walmart and Tesla issued a joint statement on the lawsuit on Thursday night: "Walmart and Tesla look forward to resolving all issues and restoring electricity to Tesla's solar panels in Walmart stores once all parties are confident that all concerns have been resolved. "

" We look forward to working together to achieve our common goal of a sustainable energy future, "it said. "Above all, both companies want every system to work reliably, efficiently and securely."

If you have information about Project Titan, or if you would like to know how Tesla resolved its solar problems, please email llopez@businessinsider.com.


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