By: Eugene Wilkie
I was always a bit suspicious when BP entered the solar industry years ago. When they first appeared on the market it was at a time when there was very little profit margin in the industry. Panel prices were 90% higher then they are now and BP refused to lower prices on the panels they produced. They have continuously committed criminal acts here in the US and need to be shut down from ever doing business in any energy sector here. The Federal Government needs to step up and just like in the oil spill make BP pay to replace every solar panel they sold here in the US. This is as dangerous as a oil spill and needs to be fixed now!
Recently Tom Vacar, Reporter for KTVU channel 2 reported a story: Customers complain of dangerous problems from BP Solar panels
DANVILLE, Calif. (KTVU) -- Frustrated customers who bought BP's solar system tell 2 Investigates that the corporation has left them on the hook for dangerous, defective panels and a warranty that's no good.
BP, the company that claimed it's "beyond petroleum" is the same company that spilled the equivalent of 25,000 semi-tanker trucks of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. BP often advertises its corporate responsibility, support of jobs and its alternative energy leadership.
But some customers who bought into one of BP's alternative energy systems say that the same corporation that fouled the waters of the Gulf is also fouling their homes and pocketbooks with defective solar panels that have a bevy of problems, including panels burning up, shattering, and putting homes in danger.
For three decades, until 2011, BP made solar panels. Many of the systems installed in the U.S. cost anywhere from $30,000 to $50,000 with a twenty-five year warranty.
Dave Redfern was one of the customers who bought a BP solar system.
"I thought that BP would be like the premium that was on the market and they were made here in the United States," said Redfern.
Brett Mohrman bought this Danville house because it had a BP solar system already installed.
"To have solar on the roof and you know, to be able to afford the monthly bills, was super important for us," explained Mohrman.
94-year-old Robert Bru told KTVU he wanted solar for two critical reasons: "It didn't need any maintenance or care or anything. All I knew was I saved money."
A big part of the pitch: small electric bills or no bills at all. But for these BP solar customers and many more, costly problems would surface. Solar installers tell KTVU it started going bad with burnt and shatter panels well within the warranty period.
"We've got a lot of junction box fires and shattering of panels and a lot of warranty issues," said Jeff Owens of Owens Electric and Solar.
"We have seen a junction box here completely melt away and and the wires have melted away from the module itself from high, high temperature," added Randy Kauffman of Next Energy.
When a panel fails, fire is a real danger.
"We have had roofs burn. On the composition it has burned and the actual panel catches on fire," said Owens.
"In fact, it could have very well been an open flame underneath here with vegetation," said Kauffman.
At a dual solar generating and panel testing station in sunny Davis, BP panels fail regularly. One day, the worst happened when flaming debris hit the grass below.
"Caught the grass on fire and there was a breeze blowing and that grass actually turned into a grass fire that burned and burned about 25, 30 acres of crops," said Bill Brooks of Brooks Solar Engineering.
Attorney David Birka-White has filed a class action against BP for misrepresentation, unfair business practices as well as violating state and Federal warranty laws.
"That kind of condition is absolutely unacceptable and consumers shouldn't be left with that sort of risk," Birka-White told KTVU. The lawsuit claims that BP knew of the problem as early as 2005, but continued to sell the systems for another five years until it quit the solar business.
"These failures are what we call 'signature failures.' They're identical. They just continue to fail again and again. This situation is gonna get worse. It's not gonna get better," said attorney Birka-White.
And because BP panels are hooked up in groups like old Christmas lights, there is a chain reaction if only one panel fails.
"On a home system where you might only have two or three groups of panels, it could easily take out a third or half of the system immediately," said solar engineer Brooks.
"There were 20 total panels and 9 of the 30 were considered to be still working at some degree," said homeowner Mohrman. He adds that he asked BP's solar expert to hook up the remaining panels.
"And he said that would be an extreme danger to have it on the house given the fact that two of them had already caught on fire," said Mohrman.
Now, almost two and a half years later? "We still haven't got anything from BP," admitted Mohrman.
In the case of David and Wendy Redfern, of the 60 solar panels they installed on their roof, 9 of them or 15 percent have failed. The failure has robbed them of solar power they we're depending on.
"I assumed that it would just get taken care of because it was a worldwide company," said Redfern. But BP's warranty says it will repair or replace defective systems, but only up to the cost of the physical system. The warranty does not cover any labor costs for the installation, removal, reinstallation or shipping of panels and parts.
"They are just offering me probably a quarter of what it would cost to replace the system (:07) and then they want me to sign a form that I will never bother them again," said Redfern.
In any event, BP no longer makes solar systems. Instead, it sends other brands to replace its own defective ones.
"Interestingly enough, several of those warranty replacement products failed as well," said Brooks.
The only guaranteed solution is an expensive one.
"The only cure for this problem is to remove and replace these panels; new panels and reimbursement for all their lost energy," said attorney Birka-White.
"They [BP] have shirked their responsibilities as a manufacturer," laments Dave Redfern.
BP did not respond to our several requests for comment on these many allegations. In their legal filings, BP mostly challenges the validity of the class action suit while generally denying any wrongdoing.
Please visit http://www.ktvu.com/ for more great stories
This is absolute sabotage and BP needs to be held accountable. Just like a recall in the car industry every BP panel needs to be recalled and replaced at their cost. The effect this could have on the solar industry could be disastrous. Think of all the neighbors and friends of folks that own these panels who will now speak negatively about a solar system. The damage is huge. This is bigger then just a class action suit this is absolute sabotage and the way that BP has arrogantly handled the situation so far is unacceptable.