CNBC’s invistigative reporting reveals that retail giant Amazon — which made solar power a key pillar of its plan to reach zero emissions by 2040 — secretly switched off all rooftop warehouse solar panels amid multiple fires and safety concerns.
The incidents occurred between April 2020 and June 2021 at six of Amazon’s 47 fulfillment centers in North America.
The first was a fire at Amazon’s warehouse in Fresno, California, which damaged 220 solar panels and other equipment and required dozens of firefighters to extinguish.
Another fire at a much larger facility in Perryville, Maryland called in 60 firefighters.
Four more incidents occurred through June 2021, forcing Amazon to shut down all of its solar arrays.
Amazon never publicly announced the shutdown, but CNBC learned about it through an internal company report provided by a source.
“The rate of dangerous incidents is unacceptable and above the industry average,” an Amazon employee wrote in the internal report.
An Amazon worker calculated that each fire or electrical explosion cost the business an average of $2.7 million, according to internal records reviewed by CNBC. Rooftop solar system audits by a third party, measurements of the amount of electricity they were producing, and repairs for any damaged or malfunctioning components found by inspectors were all included in such costs.
Additionally, an Amazon employee claimed that if the solar system stayed offline, the company would lose $940,000 each month, or $20,000 for each of the 47 deactivated North American facilities. Contracts with clean energy partners for renewable energy credits may incur additional costs for Amazon, according to the documents.
“As inspections are completed, our onsite solar systems are being powered back on. Amazon also built a team of dedicated solar experts overseeing the construction, operations, and maintenance of our systems in-house to ensure the safety of our systems,”an Amazon spokesperson said.
Sources: DailyWire, CNBC