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Amazon temporarily shut down rooftop solar panels at all US sites in 2021 due to fires

Internal documents obtained by the media this week show Amazon briefly shut down its rooftop solar panel installations at all Amazon facilities in the United States due to a series of fires caused by the solar panels.

After reviewing the documents, CNBC reported that first responders were called to at least six major fire events caused by solar panels at US Amazon facilities between April 2020 and June 2021. The documents confirm the six fires were “critical fire or arc flash events” (electrical explosions). “The rate of dangerous incidents is unacceptable, and above industry averages,” wrote an Amazon employee in the documents.

A Fresno, California warehouse caught fire in April of 2020, causing a three alarm fire. Another fire in Perryville, Maryland, in July 2021, caused $500,000 in damages and was ruled an accidental fire caused by the solar panels on the rooftop of the facility. A Redlands, California fire in 2018 was also blamed on solar panels.

Amazon began installing the solar panels on warehouse rooftops in the United States in 2017 as part of the commerce giant’s pledge to be fully eco-friendly by 2040.

Amazon publishes an annual Sustainability Report showing the company’s progress in its climate goals. The 2021 report did not mention that Amazon had taken all its US rooftop solar installations offline last Summer, but the internal documents show the company shut them all down in June in order to carry out inspections on all of them before resuming their operation.

“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,” said Erika Howard, an Amazon spokesperson, to CNBC.

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