A Tesla “Megapack” battery pack caught fire during testing on Friday, and it took firefighters four days to extinguish the blaze, Australian local authorities said on Monday.
A Megapack is Tesla’s largest battery product, and can store energy generated by solar panels or wind turbines. The Victorian Big Battery project, where the fire started on Friday morning, is made up of 210 Megapacks.
The fire at the project in Victoria, Australia, was under control as of Monday afternoon local time, the Country Fire Authority (CFA) said in a statement.
Around 150 firefighters and more than 30 fire trucks and other support vehicles were called to the scene to tackle the fire, according to the CFA.
Firefighters “found a 13-tonne lithium battery inside a shipping container was fully involved,” the CFA said. The exact cause of the fire is still unknown but will be investigated, the CFA said.
The battery plant, first announced in 2019, was built by French renewable energy giant Neoen using Tesla’s 300 megawatt battery packs. Neoen said in a statement that the battery plant is on track to be operational by the end of next year, and will be able to power local homes.
Firefighters haven’t found any more fires at the project, according to authorities. They will stay on the scene as a precaution, the CFA added.
On Monday morning local time, the CFA reported that the fire had died down but still wasn’t under control.
“There was one battery pack on fire to start with, but it did spread to a second pack that was very close to it,” Ian Beswicke, CFA incident controller and a district assistant chief fire officer, said in the statement.
A small town in Wyoming is hoping that Bill Gates will pick it for his upcoming $1 billion next-generation nuclear power plant, which could save hundreds of local jobs.
TerraPower, Gates’ nuclear-power company, is considering Glenrock, Wyoming, for its first advanced Natrium reactor, per the Associated Press (AP). Gates has said the reactor would be safer and cost less than a traditional nuclear reactor.
A coal-fired power plant in Glenrock is due to shut in 2027, according to plans published by energy company PacifiCorp, the plant’s owner. The plant, called the Dave Johnston Power Plant, employs nearly 200 people from Glenrock and two nearby towns, Wyoming News reported.
Glenrock Mayor Bruce Roumell told Fox Business that the site could more than make up for lost coal jobs.
“We’ve been told it’ll be close to 250 people,” Roumell told Fox Business when asked how many jobs could be created. “They’ve also said there would be around 1,500 people in the construction phase. That’s a pretty good influx into this area for us.”
Gates said in a June press briefing that the Natirum reactor, which uses liquid sodium as its coolant instead of water, would be safer and cost less than a traditional nuclear reactor. In October 2020, the US Department of Energy awarded the project $80 million in initial funding, per a TerraPower press release.
In June, TerraPower said in a press release that it would select a town in Wyoming for its first reactor project, and that it would announce the site by the end of the year. Gillette, Kemmerer, and Rock Springs are the three other towns under consideration, per the AP.
TerraPower previously said the project would cost about $1 billion, Reuters reported.
Fox Business said that nearly all of Glenrock’s residents it spoke to were excited at the idea of TerraPower moving into town.
“We’ve got to do something,” resident Deb Schell told Fox Business. “I think it’s the wave of the future. Coal is on its way out so we have to do something.”
TerraPower and PacifiCorp did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment.
Tesla’s solar-power unit, Tesla Energy, asks a team of more than 20 employees to scour social media and reviews sites for customer complaints, a former employee told Insider.
The person, who left the company this year and asked not to be named, said that as well as solving customers’ issues, the team tried to get customers to delete their posts.
A separate team of nine people looked specifically for posts aimed at CEO Elon Musk, the ex-employee said. This chimes with a job ad Tesla Energy put out in January for a “Customer Support Specialist” – the advert said applicants would address “social media escalations” aimed at Musk.
A former manager at Tesla Energy, who worked at the company until last year and asked not to be named, also said a dedicated team searched for social-media complaints. “They would basically just look up #TeslaEnergy, #Elon, just anything that has to do with Tesla and energy and Elon,” they said.
On top of resolving the customer’s issue, both employees said staff were instructed to politely ask customers to delete their social media complaints. Insider verified the identities and employment of both former employees.
The first former employee said they did not work on either of the social media complaint teams, and usually dealt with complaints that came through Tesla’s customer-service channels.
But they were also expected to scour the internet for unhappy customers in their “downtime.” The ex-employee estimated they dealt with an average of 18 complaints from customers from the regular customer service pipeline every day, so they had to find time around these to look for angry posts on social media.
“There’s almost no downtime and that’s what makes it difficult,” they said, adding that they worked during breaks to avoid getting swamped by deadlines.
The former manager said that posting on social media was sometimes a faster way for customers to get the company to address complaints than going through customer service.
A Tesla Energy customer, who asked not to be named, told Insider they received this exact advice from their dedicated project manager when they had problems with their solar roof contract.
“She told me to go online and complain … on Twitter or Facebook, because she said the only thing this company listens to is social media sentiment,” the customer said. The customer posted on Twitter, but said they didn’t know if it made a difference as they were never specifically contacted by Tesla about it.
Tesla Energy customers told Insider in May that the company had ghosted them for weeks on end. One prospective customer that Insider spoke to for that report said a Tesla rep called him after he complained on Twitter. The same customer told Insider in an email that nobody from Tesla asked him to take the tweet down.
No company in the index was spared, with the best-performing stock, Texas-based oil equipment maker NOV Inc, losing about 3%. The worst-performing, Diamondback Energy, fell more than 7.5%. The oil majors were likewise pummeled but avoided the worst of the damage: Chevron and ExxonMobil were among the top performers in the energy index.
Energy stocks were hit most notably by declining oil prices, which were at a seven-week low at the start of the trading day. But fears surrounding the Delta variant were top of traders’ minds, as the virus could threaten further lockdowns.
“Because the numbers in places like the UK are getting so large, there now is a realistic concern that this could create lockdowns,” said Jeff Currie, commodities head at Goldman Sachs, on CNBC.
In Currie’s view, a spike in cases driven by the Delta variant might not be enough to derail rising oil prices. Even with OPEC+ agreeing to up oil output, supply continues to undershoot demand; Goldman estimates a deficit of 2.3 million barrels per day.
Mark Haefele, CIO at UBS Global Wealth Management, agreed with Currie, writing in a note on Monday that risk-tolerant investors should go long on oil and the associated stocks.
Goldman and UBS have set their oil price targets at $80 per barrel, while other analysts are eyeing even higher prices. Bank of America is calling for $100 per barrel in 2022.
The S&P 500 Energy Index was down 4.33% as of 2:15 p.m. ET.
The Biden administration is set to reverse a Trump-era rule that would have loosened restrictions on the water flow from showerheads, an issue that generated complaints from the former president during his tenure in office, according to The Associated Press.
The Energy Department is returning to the standard that was approved in 2013, noting that most showerheads already provide an ample amount of water for a thorough wash.
Most commercial showerheads are already aligned with the 2013 rule, so the policy change will have little impact among consumers.
Showerheads that could generate the additional supply of water that former President Donald Trump sought are not widely available, Energy officials said.
Since 1992, federal law has stipulated that showerheads should not put out more than 2.5 gallons of water per minute.
However, as newer showerheads were introduced into the market, the administration of former President Barack Obama modified the restrictions to reflect the total amount of water that came out of any nozzles. If a showerhead had three nozzles, for example, no more than 2.5 gallons of water total could be released from all three nozzles per minute.
The Trump rule, which was instituted last December, allowed for each nozzle to release a maximum of 2.5 gallons of water per minute instead of the standard applying to the entire showerhead.
The rule change, which would return to the Obama-era standard, is slated to published in the Federal Register next week.
The general public will then have 60 days to comment on the proposal before a final rule is devised, according to The Associated Press.
Energy officials estimated that the previous rule saved US households roughly $38 a year and believe that returning to the old standard will yield similar savings.
Kelly Speakes-Backman, the acting assistant secretary for the department’s Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, touted the move on Friday.
“As many parts of America experience historic droughts, this commonsense proposal means consumers can purchase showerheads that conserve water and save them money on their utility bills,” she said.
Trump, in pushing for the change under his administration, mentioned that his hair needed to be “perfect.”
“So showerheads – you take a shower, the water doesn’t come out. You want to wash your hands, the water doesn’t come out,” Trump said last year. “So what do you do? You just stand there longer or you take a shower longer? Because my hair – I don’t know about you, but it has to be perfect.”
Conservation groups were not too keen on the 2020 rule change.
Andrew deLaski, the executive director of the energy conservation group Appliance Standards Awareness Project, told The Associated Press that with four or more nozzles “you could have 10, 15 gallons per minute powering out of the showerhead, literally probably washing you out of the bathroom.”
“At a time when a good portion of the country is experiencing serious drought exacerbated by climate change, there’s no place for showerheads that use needless amounts of water,” he said.
Five years ago Tesla bought SolarCity, the biggest installer of residential solar panels in the US. Tesla CEO Elon is now having to defend that decision against shareholders, who claim the acquisition amounted to a bailout.
If Musk loses, he’ll be liable to pay up to $2.6 billion back to Tesla. Although this would make up only a fraction of Musk’s fortune – at time of writing his net worth stands at $179 billion per the Bloomberg Billionaires Index – Wedbush analyst Dan Ives said the case is a “black eye” for Tesla and could do serious reputational damage.
“The goal is not to be a car company. There are plenty of car companies, but an electric car company is part of a sustainable energy future, as is solar and stationary storage,” Musk said, per the Wall Street Journal.
After the 2016 acquisition SolarCity was transformed into Tesla Energy, which has had to contend with multiple lawsuits, solar panel fires, and production problems.
How SolarCity became Tesla Energy:
SolarCity was founded in 2006 by Elon Musk’s cousins Lyndon and Peter Rive.
The company initially enjoyed success, and in 2013 became the top residential installer for solar panels in the US, according to solar panel comparison site Energy Sage.
Its stock peaked in February 2014 at $88.35 a share — but then it began to go downhill.
SolarCity ran into major problems in 2015.
In October 2015, a quarter of SolarCity’s value got wiped out, meaning it lost its “unicorn” status (a unicorn is a company valued at more than $1 billion).
The sudden drop in its value came after Lyndon Rive said the company would have to focus on cutting costs, as its rapid growth meant it had sunk a lot of money into infrastructure that wouldn’t make it any cash in the near future.
“The downside of growing at 80% or 90% is you have to make investments into the infrastructure today, but you only recognize the benefit of that investment two quarters to three quarters later,” Rive said.
Documents obtained by shareholder lawsuits revealed executives thought the company was facing a cash crisis as early as September 2015.
SolarCity announced Tesla had offered to buy it for $2.6 billion in August 2016.
“Now is the right time to bring our two companies together: Tesla is getting ready to scale our Powerwall and Powerpack stationary storage products and SolarCity is getting ready to offer next-generation differentiated solar solutions,” SolarCity’s blog said.
When Tesla bought SolarCity, it took on $3 billion in debt.
As Insider’s Matthew DeBord wrote at the time, SolarCity had $3.2 billion in debt when Tesla acquired it. Its market cap had also fallen by 50% in the year leading up to the acquisition.
Although Elon Musk argued in court this week he didn’t think SolarCity was “financially troubled” when Tesla acquired it, court documents unsealed in 2019 show Musk emailed former SolarCity finance chief Brad Buss, saying SolarCity would need to solve its “liquidity crisis” to win over investors.
A regulatory filing showed SolarCity had started 2016 with 15,273 staff but by the end of 2016, it had 12,243.
The Rive brothers left less than a year after the acquisition closed.
Lyndon Rive announced in May 2017 he would be leaving Tesla in June.
He told employees in a letter he was an “entrepreneur at heart,” and wanted to leave to build a new startup. Rive told Reuters at the time SolarCity was “healthier than it’s ever been.”
“I plan to spend more time exploring the outdoors, more time with my family, and helping non-profit solar projects in the developing world,” Rive added.
In 2018, Tesla Energy had to deal with a major PR crisis when Tesla solar panels on top of seven Walmarts caught fire.
Walmart filed a lawsuit against Tesla in August 2019 claiming the fires were the result of “widespread negligence” on Tesla’s part.
After Walmart filed the case Amazon came forward to say solar panels on top of its Redlands, California warehouse had caught fire in June 2018. The retail giant said it would not be installing any more solar panels.
Walmart dropped the lawsuit three months later after reaching an out-of-court settlement with Tesla, a Walmart spokesperson said. The details of the settlement were not disclosed.
Since SolarCity became Tesla Energy it’s brought out two big flagship products: the Powerwall and the Solar Roof.
While Tesla Energy has continued to sell the traditional solar panels SolarCity used to install — which are made by third-party manufacturers such as Trina Solar — it has brought two new products to market since the acquisition.
The first was its Powerwall storage battery, designed to store energy generated by a customer’s solar system so even if the power goes down in their neighbourhood they’ll have access to power.
It’s not entirely clear whether development on the Powerwall began before or after the acquisition. Tesla gave a preview of the storage battery at an event in May 2015, but in testimony on Tuesday Musk said development of the Powerwall was “beginning” when the acquisition happened in 2016.
“We were beginning development of the Tesla Powerwall battery. And in order to have a compelling product, you really needed to have a tightly integrated solar and battery solution. And we could not create a well-integrated product if SolarCity was a separate company,” Musk told the court.
The second is the Solar Roof, which instead of bolting panels on top of a customer’s roof replaces the entire roof with photovoltaic shingles.
Musk debuted the Solar Roof in October 2016 during a glitzy event on a house from the show “Desperate Housewives.”
“It needs to be beautiful, affordable and seamlessly integrated,” Musk said at the unveiling event, adding: “You’ll want to call your neighbors over and say, ‘check out this sweet roof.'”
Musk addressed the price hike in Tesla’s 2021 Q1 earnings call, saying “we did find that we basically made some significant mistakes in assessment of difficulty of certain roofs.”
Musk said roof complexity made it hard to price them accurately. “If a roof has a lot of protuberances, or if the roof — sort of the core structure of the roof is rotted out or is not strong enough to hold the Solar Roof, then the cost can be double, sometimes three times what our initial quotes were,” he said.
Tesla also made buying a Powerwall a compulsory package deal when buying a solar system in April.
Elon Musk announced the policy change via a tweet. “Solar power will feed exclusively to Powerwall. Powerwall will interface only between utility meter & house main breaker panel, enabling super simple install & seamless whole house backup during utility dropouts,” Musk said.
The tweet appeared to be in response to a customer who complained on Twitter their system hadn’t generated a “single watt-hour.”
Tesla Energy has fallen behind competitors since SolarCity’s heyday. Musk blames the Model 3, the pandemic, and the global chip shortage.
While SolarCity was once number one in the US for residential solar installs, in Q1 of 2019 it slipped to number three below rivals Sunrun and Vivint Solar. Sunrun acquired Vivint in October 2020, consolidating its market share.
During his testimony before the Delaware Court of Chancery on July 12, Musk said Tesla Energy’s progress was hampered by the notoriously difficult production ramp on the Model 3 car. Musk said in his testimony and in depositions the company had to pour all its resources into getting the Model 3 to market — meaning its energy operation suffered.
After that, Musk said, the company ran “headlong into a pandemic.”
Elon Musk took the stand on Monday to defend Tesla’s 2016 acquisition of a struggling solar firm founded by his cousins. It went about as smoothly as you’d expect a five-hour testimony from an outspoken billionaire with practically no filter would go.
That is to say, things got off-topic and, at some points, pretty testy.
A group of Tesla shareholders is suing Musk over the purchase of SolarCity, alleging that his role as its chairman and largest shareholder presented a conflict of interest. They claim that Musk pressured Tesla’s board into greenlighting the $2.6 billion purchase and want Musk to pay back $2 billion to the electric-vehicle maker.
Other members of the board have already settled to the tune of $60 million.
Musk maintains that he did not exert any influence over the board as it made the decision and pushed back against claims that it was a bailout, multiple outletsreported. He also reiterated that the deal was a stock-for-stock transaction that didn’t benefit him financially and that it was always part of Tesla’s plan to move beyond electric-vehicle production into clean-energy solutions.
Still, much of the day saw Musk sparring with the shareholders’ main attorney, Randy Baron, and giving meandering answers that got off-topic. Here are five of the most notable moments:
Musk “hates” running Tesla
Musk at one point said he doesn’t want to be Tesla’s CEO but fears that the company would falter without him.
“I tried very hard not to be the CEO of Tesla, but I have to or frankly Tesla is going to die,” Musk said, according to Bloomberg. “I rather hate being a boss. I’m an engineer.”
Musk, who also serves as CEO of SpaceX, a rocket firm he founded, has said similar things before. Tesla itself acknowledges in regulatory filings that it relies heavily on Musk and that it would be in a tough spot if he left the company.
“I think you are a bad human being.”
Sparks flew between Musk and Baron, the plaintiffs’ lawyer, in pre-trial depositions. Monday was no exception.
Asked why he was being “derisive” in his deposition, Musk retorted by pointing out a history of criminal activity at a law firm Baron used to work at.
“You were mentored by criminals,” Musk said, according to Bloomberg. “Then you continued to be mentored by criminals and that is why I do not respect you. I think you are a bad human being.”
Musk gave lengthy responses to yes or no questions during the trial at Delaware’s Court of Chancery, frustrating opposing attorney Randall Baron, who told Musk he was holding up the trial, delawareonline.com and AP reported.
Musk told Baron that some of his questions were “really tricky and deceptive,” per AP.
“I think you are a bad human being,” Musk also told Baron, after the lawyer asked him if he was being “derisive” in his answers to questions, per The Washington Post.
“You were mentored by criminals, then you continued to be mentored by criminals,” Musk said to Baron, the Post reported. Musk cited examples of criminal wrongdoing by a former partner at a firm that was a predecessor to Baron’s law firm, Robbins Geller Rudman & Dowd LLP, the Post reported.
Musk denied that he had benefited from the deal. “Since it was a stock-for-stock transaction and I owned almost exactly the same percentage of both there was no financial gain,” he told the court, per CNBC.
In an email to Insider, Baron said that the full damages sought by the lawsuit were between $2.2 and $2.6 billion, although Musk could pay less if found liable.
SolarCity became Tesla’s solar power division, Tesla Energy, after the acquisition. Insider spoke to Tesla Energy solar panel owners earlier this year who said Tesla had not responded to their calls and bumped up solar roof prices by thousands.
Tesla did not immediately respond to Insider when reached for comment.
Do you work at Tesla Energy or are you a Tesla Energy customer? Contact this reporter at email@example.com. If you are an employee always use a non-work email.
Elon Musk has said that Tesla’s solar energy division hasn’t taken off because his company had to focus on getting the Model 3 to market, and then ran “headlong” into the pandemic.
The Tesla CEO made the comments Monday at the Delaware Court of Chancery, where he’s defending Tesla’s acquisition of solar panel company SolarCity in 2016.
SolarCity was founded by Musk’s cousins and Musk had a 22% stake in the business. It was absorbed into Tesla and became Tesla Energy. The court case was brought by shareholders who claim that the deal amounted to a backdoor bailout of SolarCity.
Musk told the court Monday he blamed Tesla Energy’s failure to live up to expectations on Tesla diverting its resources to focus on getting its Model 3 to market, according to the AP and the Washington Post. Per the AP, Musk said the Model 3 became an “all hands on deck” effort.
After that, Musk said, Tesla Energy ran “headlong into a pandemic.” Per the Washington Post’s Will Oremus, who was present at the trial, Musk insisted that Tesla Energy would take off as the pandemic eases – although the lawyer cross-examining Musk said he had failed to keep promises.
Tesla Energy has lost market share since the 2016 acquisition. When Tesla bought SolarCity it was the top installer of solar panels in the US, but in 2019 it fell into third place behind Sunrun and Vivint Solar.
On Christmas Day 2020, married couple Jamie Fedorko and Sabrina Ferrer woke up to water trickling into their house in Hudson Valley, New York. Overnight, a rainstorm had melted snow drifts on their roof, and water was seeping into a guest bedroom.
They weren’t surprised. They’d been dealing with recurring leaks for almost a year, and had spent that year running after the company they believed was the root of the problem – Tesla. Elon Musk’s Tesla is best known for its electric cars but it also has a solar energy division, called Tesla Energy, which had installed solar panels on the roof before the couple bought the house.
“My heart sank,” Ferrer told Insider, describing the moment she noticed the leak. “I knew that we’d have to spend the entire day on the phone with Tesla trying to convince someone to come out on a holiday.” The couple discovered another seven leaks that Christmas Day, she said.
The couple say they have now faced 18 months of recurring, damaging leaks, a severe mold infestation that forced them out of their home for three months, and an ongoing dispute with Tesla over how much money Tesla will pay for repairs.
The couple are fed up, they told Insider. They want to ditch the panels – which they believe have caused multiple leaks – and kill their solar-panel contract. But they feel as if they’re effectively trapped in a lease that Tesla won’t let them easily escape, they said.
In April, the couple filed a petition for arbitration, which is the only way for them to get out of their contract, per their lease agreement. In arbitration, two parties agree to resolve their dispute outside of court, usually through an official arbitrator.
The petition asked that the company end the lease and cover an alleged $115,000 in damages. Tesla made a settlement offer of $33,000 compensation in February, as confirmed by a document viewed by Insider. Fedorko said the couple rejected the offer because they wanted the $115,000 they believe they’re owed, and because they wanted a settlement that ended their lease.
The couple first submitted their petition in April, followed by an amended version in May. Tesla responded on June 18, on the final day of a 20-day deadline following the May filing. Insider viewed Tesla’s response, which contained broad denials of the allegations in the petition.
Arbitration responses typically include these, but the couple’s lawyer Tom Mullaney told Insider he was hoping for more.
“Tesla’s answer contains all it is required to give, and no more,” Mullaney said in an email. “I was not surprised to see it, but I was hoping for substantially more from a self-styled, socially conscious company whose customers are suffering from significant damage to their physical environment caused by its products,” he said.
Fedorko said his immediate reaction to Tesla’s response was that he remained “baffled.”
“Wouldn’t it be easier if instead of doing what we’re doing, Tesla simply worked directly with their paying customers whose lives have been upended by Tesla itself?”
Tesla did not respond to repeated requests for comment from Insider.
While Fedorko and Ferrer’s experience is extreme, they aren’t alone in their frustration with Tesla Energy. In recent interviews with Insider, several Tesla Energy system owners described what they saw as shockingly unresponsive customer service, even after contacting the company to resolve serious issues, such as leaks.
Fedorko’s panels, which were removed seven months ago so the roof could be fixed, are now lying in the couple’s backyard.
The leaks began seven months after the couple moved in
Fedorko and Ferrer bought their Hudson Valley house – the first house they’d ever owned – in June 2019 for $570,000. To close the deal, they had to assume the lease of the Tesla Solar panels sitting on the house’s roof, Fedorko said.
The couple first discovered a leak in their house in January 2020, he said. Water was seeping into the kitchen, and when Fedorko climbed into the attic he realized the solar panels would have to be removed to properly inspect the roof, he said.
According to a “site visit agreement” viewed by Insider, Tesla charges $200 to send a crew out to investigate problems with solar panels. If the crew then discovers the panels have caused the damage, the fee is waived. Tesla also limits the company’s liability for “direct damages” to $500.
Tesla told Fedorko the earliest it could send a crew was four to six weeks, he said. Unhappy with the idea of six weeks’ worth of water leaking into his kitchen, Fedorko hired local contractors to take the panels off and reseal the roof.
Once the contractors had resealed the roof in January 2020, everything seemed fine for four weeks – and then two leaks appeared: one in the same spot, and another in a different part of the kitchen, Fedorko said. This time, Tesla sent out a crew of two within two days: one person to fix the roof and another to patch up drywall that had cracked due to the leak, he said.
Fedorko said Tesla reimbursed the fee for the visit, and Insider viewed a correspondence in which a Tesla representative agreed the company would cover an invoice for $480 related to repairing damage caused by the January leaks.
The house sprung leaks three more times in the spring and summer, and then again on Christmas Day, Fedorko said. In an email dated January 15 of this year and viewed by Insider, a Tesla executive resolutions specialist, a kind of dedicated customer service rep, detailed the apparent causes for leaks that occurred in February, July, and December 2020 – all of them to do with the solar panels.
Fedorko said he was so exasperated by the spring and summer leaks that in August 2020 he asked Tesla about removing the system and killing the contract.
Tesla said there was no out-clause, and that he’d have to take the company to arbitration.
This isn’t unusual for solar-panel companies. Lease contracts for solar panels often come with arbitration clauses rather than simple out-clauses. “Most solar lease contracts are difficult to cancel without legal action,” Nick Liberati, communications manager for solar panel comparison site Energy Sage, told Insider.
Exhausted, the couple let the matter rest. “We just said, all right, whatever. Let’s hope that this last fix worked and we’ll let it go,” Fedorko said.
In October 2020, the weather cooled, and the couple turned on the heating more regularly. As they did so, an unpleasant smell began permeating the house, they told Insider.
A month later, Fedorko paid for an H-VAC company to come and inspect the heating system. The company found water had breached the heating ducts, leading to a mold infestation. The heating appeared to be blowing spores around the house, causing the smell, Fedorko said.
Insider viewed a report ordered by the couple’s homeowner insurance company, in which an inspector gave his opinion that “water intrusion” through the roof was the source of the mold. Insider also viewed a January bill from a local H-VAC company that said the system had been compromised by “water incursion.”
In January, the couple got an independent assessor to determine whether the mold posed a health risk. According to that assessor’s report, as viewed by Insider, the mold levels in the attic were 100 times higher than the level considered safe for human habitation. In the rest of the house, they were 10 times higher than the recommended safe level, per the report. This was especially alarming for Fedorko, because he suffers from asthma.
The couple moved out immediately, temporarily staying with an elderly uncle while they looked for a place to rent, Fedorko said.
Work on the mold didn’t start until February because the couple tried to get Tesla to cover the costs of the work before it started, but could not convince the company to do so. The company made its offer of $33,000, but that didn’t cover the full costs of the mold remediation.
Eventually, they decided they could wait no longer.
To get rid of the mold, the couple had to replace the roof shingles and the decking, which had become infested. Next, they had to have their HVAC system repaired, and finally pay for mold remediation throughout the whole house.
“This was by far the most costly, time consuming portion of the repairs,” Fedorko said. The mold removers had to go through the entire house deploying purification machines and scrubbing rooms by hand. A bill viewed by Insider showed the mold remediation alone cost $41,900.
The couple said they had to stay out of the home for three months.
Although Tesla offered to pay for many of the leaks – most explicitly, via its $33,000 compensation offer – it denied that the leaks led to the mold infestation.
Fedorko sent the reports he’d gathered on the mold to Tesla, which then sent out an engineer and an adjuster. The adjuster told Fedorko that the mold wasn’t caused by the roof leaks – it was the dryer venting into the house’s attic space, Fedorko said.
A letter from a heating company later contracted by Fedorko said that this was not the case.
“We found that the dryer was already venting to the exterior of the home and was not venting into the attic. An old pipe which is no longer in use and had already been corrected may have led someone to incorrectly believe otherwise,” the letter said.
Once Tesla’s Solar panels came off, they could see the extent of the damage
The panels have been off the roof since December 30, 2020, when Tesla sent out a crew to inspect the roof after the Christmas Day leaks.
“We agreed to remove the entire system to assess the condition of the roof, which we’d never done before,” Fedorko said.
“Once the panels were off, it was staggering. The roof had soft spots, replacement shingles, it was not in good shape and the foreman said right to my face that the roof clearly wasn’t in solid condition to begin with.”
In a January 2021 report, an independent inspector hired by Fedorko said there were pre-existing problems with the roof, and that the panels shouldn’t have been installed until the roof had been replaced. The report also said the way the panels were installed would have contributed to “seepage.”
The couple told Tesla to leave the system off until the roof was fixed, and are determined not to put them back on, they said. They have since paid to replace the roof, and continue to pursue Tesla for reimbursement of their expenses and an end to their lease.
In an email viewed by Insider, the couple’s executive resolutions specialist said billing had been paused, but not lifted. There was a “high probability” the couple wouldn’t be reported to a credit bureau, the specialist said.
“The house is fine now,” Fedorko said. “It’s not raining in my living room every time it rains, so that’s helpful. But I’ve worked really hard to make back what we’ve lost.
“We just feel sort of stupid about the whole thing, in the last year and a half, people are suffering so immensely […] but the emotional, personal toll has been no joke,” he added.
Now, 11 months after they first asked Tesla about ending the contract, the couple is awaiting a schedule for the arbitration process. Meanwhile, the panels are still lying dormant in their backyard.
“We couldn’t sell our home if we wanted to.”
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