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Arc Flash Events at Amazon Warehouses – Solar Panels had to be taken Offline

On the afternoon of April 14, 2020, dozens of firefighters arrived at an Amazon warehouse in Fresno, California, as thick plumes of smoke poured from the roof of the 880,000-square-foot warehouse.

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

A little over a year later, about 60 firefighters were called to an even larger Amazon facility in Perryville, Maryland, to put out a two-alarm blaze, local news outlets reported

In the intervening months, at least four other Amazon fulfillment centers caught fire or experienced electrical explosions due to failures with their solar energy-generating systems, according to internal company documents viewed by CNBC.

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 at least six of its 47 North American sites with solar installations, affecting 12.7% of such facilities. Arc flashes are a kind of electrical explosion.

“The rate of dangerous incidents is unacceptable, and above industry averages,” an Amazon employee wrote in one of the internal reports.

By June of last year, all of Amazon’s U.S. operations with solar had to be taken offline temporarily, internal documents show. The company had to ensure its systems were designed, installed and maintained properly before “re-energizing” any of them.

Amazon spokesperson Erika Howard told CNBC in a statement that the incidents involved systems run by partners, and that the company responded by voluntarily turning off its solar-powered roofs.

“Out of an abundance of caution, following a small number of isolated incidents with onsite solar systems owned and operated by third parties, Amazon proactively powered off our onsite solar installations in North America, and took immediate steps to re-inspect each installation by a leading solar technical expert firm,” the statement said.

 

Click here for the full article from CNBC