Amazon carried all U.S. solar rooftops offline the previous year after a storm of fires and electrical explosions

Amazon carried all U.S. solar rooftops offline the previous year after a storm of fires and electrical explosions

September 5, 2022: -Dozens of firefighters came to an Amazon warehouse in Fresno, California, as major plumes of smoke poured from the roof of the 880,000-square-foot storage in 2020.

A few 220 solar panels and other equipment at the facility, known as FAT1, were affected by the three-alarm fire, caused by “an undetermined electrical event within the solar system mounted on top of the roof,” Leland Wilding, Fresno’s fire investigator, wrote.

About 60 firefighters are calling to an even larger Amazon facility in Perryville, Maryland, a little over a year later, to put out a two-alarm blaze, local news outlets reported.

In the intervening months, according to internal company documents, at least four other Amazon fulfillment centers caught fire or experienced electrical explosions because of the failures in their solar energy-generating systems.

The documents, which have never been made public, indicate that between April 2020 and June 2021, Amazon experienced “critical fire or arc flash events” in nearly six of its 47 North American sites with solar installations, which affects 12.7% of facilities. Arc flashes are a kind of electrical explosion.

“The rate of dangerous incidents is not acceptable and above industry averages,” an Amazon employee wrote in one of the internal reports.

The solar snafus underscore the challenge Amazon, and different large corporations face in their quest to reduce their environmental footprint and reliance on fossil fuels. Amazon has been the most aggressive. In 2019, founder Jeff Bezos launched the Climate Pledge, promising the biggest online retailer would zero out emissions by 2040, embracing renewable energy and moving away from gas-guzzling delivery vans, which included a billion-dollar-plus investment in electric vehicle company Rivian.

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