Amazon and Walmart Have Tesla-related Solar Panel Fires

More bad press for Tesla that the fanbois will ignore. Amazon Joins Walmart in Saying Tesla Solar Panel Caught Fire.

On Friday, Amazon.com Inc. said a June 2018 blaze on the roof of one of its warehouses in Redlands, California, involved a solar panel system that Tesla’s SolarCity division had installed. The Seattle-based retail giant said by email that it has since taken steps to protect its facilities and has no plans to install more Tesla systems.

News of the Amazon fire comes just three days after Walmart dropped a bombshell lawsuit against Tesla, accusing it of shoddy panel installations that led to fires at more than a half-dozen stores.

In general, solar panels are a mature and safe technology. Not sure what problems Tesla could be having, though apparently there is a faulty connector that Tesla is trying to replace. (I’m sure they specified custom parts, because buying electrical connectors from Molex or McMaster-Carr or wherever is SO 20th Century. Or something.)

A Solar Road. What Could Go Wrong?

Color me shocked. France’s Wattway solar road proves to be a big, expensive failure. The term “abject failure” came up.

Do people with these dreams of solar everything have any idea how much stress is imposed by vehicles? I’m guessing, “No.”

The solar roadway is constructed from panels with a special silicon resin acting as the driving surface, and while its designer, a company called Colas, claimed it would stand up to a semi-truck, tractors seem to have been enough to cause the silicon layer to flake and crack, damaging the delicate solar panels underneath.

The Wattway is also loud. So loud, in fact, that the local government has been forced to limit traffic to just 70 kilometers per hour (around 43 miles per hour) to cut down on the sound. So, it seems like the Wattway is a failure at being a road, but how is it at generating solar energy?

Miserable.

The “shade” from cars driving on the road. Where it was placed, wasn’t a great solar location, and the flat nature of roads added up to less than expected performance.

The best quote is really from the Popular Mechanics article on the Wattway.

“If they really want this to work, they should first stop cars driving on it,” Marc Jedliczka, vice president of the Network for Energetic Transition (CLER), which promotes renewable energy

Stop driving on your solar “road.” That’s probably a Progressive dream. Or something.

Audi – not Tesla – Gets Top Safety Rating for Electric Car

Not a surprise, that a car company would be better at making cars than a tech company. Audi e-tron becomes the first all-electric vehicle to earn IIHS top safety rating.

The 2019 Audi e-tron has become the first battery-electric vehicle to earn a top safety rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, an achievement that Tesla and other electric models like the Chevy Bolt have not been able to capture.

Audi, for reasons I can’t understand, doesn’t get a lot of the electric car press. But they have been racing the R18 e-tron (which granted, is a hybrid) at places like The 24 Hours of Le Mans since 2012.

Tesla’s Solar Roof: Not ready for prime-time

Because when you do business with an “established” firm, it should be as crazy as signing up for a “GoFundMe” campaign. Or something. Some Tesla customers who ordered the Solar Roof have no idea when they’ll get it.

  • Three years ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk said the electric-car maker and energy company’s solar roof tiles would set the company’s energy products apart from those of its competitors.
  • But current and former reservation-holders for the roof tiles, known as the Solar Roof, say they’ve been kept in the dark about when they will get them.
  • The Solar Roof’s rollout has been delayed by aesthetic issues and durability testing.
  • Musk said Tesla was installing the Solar Roof in eight states, but the company has not disclosed the number of Solar Roofs that have been delivered.

Those bullet points that start the article tell the whole story, though the interviews with customers (one who canceled his order, and one who is still on the waiting list) are interesting.

Environmentalism or Socialism? It’s Impossible to Tell the Difference Today

Germany needs to nationalize everything because of Global Warming, or Climate Change, or something. Sozialistischer Quatsch – OR – Socialist nonsense. (Yes, I know the article is in German.)

The Swedish environmental activist Greta Thunberg penetrates. “I want you to panic,” she wished at the World Economic Forum in Davos at the beginning of the year. The leader of the Left Party has clearly taken this to heart and now ventilated climate protection ideas that simply make [you] speechless.

Nationalize the utilities and airlines to combat global warming. So that means they will limit your travel and limit the amount of energy you have available. Or are utilities suddenly more efficient when owned by the .gov? (Pay no attention to what is going on in Venezuela on the utility front. Or any other.)

New Video on California’s Camp Fire

This video is interesting, even if parts of it come across as a bit of a PR piece for CalFire. Still, it’s worth the 17 minutes. The descriptions of 911 calls are particularly tough to listen to, even though I’m sure they edited out the worst bits.

The teaser for the video can be found at The Sacramento Bee: ‘We will not let you die today!’ Dramatic new firefighter video shows Camp Fire chaos.

The full video is at YouTube. INTO THE FIRE

SJW’s Opposed to Hunting Screeching Their Outrage in 3, 2,…

Because we can’t kill the Iguanas. Florida declares war on iguanas.

They were apparently introduced into Florida when “pet owners” released some of them. They are thriving, and killing native habitat.

“They’re a menace.”

The state of Florida agrees. After a warm winter and now with record-breaking summer heat – the kind of weather iguanas thrive in – the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission has declared open season on the exotic reptile.

“The FWC encourages homeowners to kill green iguanas on their own property whenever possible,” the commission recently wrote on its website. “Iguanas can also be killed year-round and without a permit on 22 public lands in south Florida.”

We could solve a hunger problem, but I wouldn’t count on it catching on…

Iguanas are a food source in some Caribbean countries, where they’re called “chicken of the trees.” Colato said a friend from Trinidad and Tobago cooked one in a curry. (“It was very good, actually,” he said.) But most Floridians don’t view them as entrees.

There are no natural predators for iguanas in Florida, so their population is exploding. (Is this Peak Florida? Probably not.)

Oh, and the Screeching?

“I want the iguana killing stopped,” [Homeowner E’Lyn] Bryan said. “These creatures deserve to live. They shot one in the leg, and now it has to get around on three legs. If humans can’t cohabitate with them, there has to be a more humane way to deal with it.”

I wonder how she feels about protecting the environment.

Electric Cars, Cold Weather, and Emergencies

Three things that do not do well together. An electric car can’t fully replace a gas-powered car in my world.

So recently I was at a graduation party for the son of a friend. (It was more like 2 parties, one of high-school kids, one of adults.) One of the neighbors had recently purchased a Tesla, and so someone else came up with a Tesla-cold-weather-driving story. After enjoying the schadenfreude, I went on a search for info about Tesla’s performance in cold weather.

Here’s the situation. You are driving to see family. Your young child develops a medical emergency. So you need to divert from your intended destination to an urgent care, then to the local hospital, and then to a regional hospital. Now for part of that time, the kid was traveling by ambulance, but that isn’t the point. The point is, sometimes plans, destinations, and expected driving distances need to change. Without regard for the nearest charging station.

Here’s the meat of the issue.

We can breathlessly talk about driving range, but neither that nor more chargers would have erased my anxiety—the anxiety of a parent who can’t spare extra minutes because his kid needs to get to the hospital.

Other situations where driving distance is an issue… Evacuation ahead of a hurricane in Florida. Evacuation ahead of the Camp Fire in Paradise, California. I’m sure you can think of others, while playing along on the home version of “Situations where charging time can be deadly.”

The whole thing is well written, and not terribly long. I encourage you to go read the whole thing. Here is the detailed account of what happened to that family at Christmas, driving to see family.

After further discussion and tests at Allen Hospital, it was clear Seth had intussusception—his intestines had folded onto themselves, and nobody could do the more complicated procedure on a toddler at the small-town hospital. I immediately wanted to go north, back to Minneapolis to get him care from doctors we knew and trusted, or at least head north and go to The Mayo Clinic. From that point, that would’ve asked an electric car to cover at least 339 miles, or at most 446 miles in the dead of Iowa winter. Waterloo, Iowa, isn’t far and has electric-car charging, but waiting at a Level 2 charger to charge over hours, at a trickle, wasn’t an option when every minute counts.

Tesla and SolarCity

The Tesla fanboys were so sure that this merger was going to change the face of power generation. Didn’t really work out that way. MIT Technology Review: Tesla’s trumpeted solar shingles are a flop.

But then I’ve always believed that Tesla (and Musk) were “all hat and no cattle” when it came to solar. For a couple of reasons.

The first is tied up with the reality of what has happened since the merger.

In the more than two years since Tesla acquired SolarCity, its overall solar installations have plummeted by more than 76%.

A Tesla spokesperson told Reuters it’s “actively installing” the Solar Roof product in eight states but declined to discuss its purchases from Panasonic or provide overall installation numbers.

At least they seem to have learned the lesson from the SEC: Don’t embellish the truth.

Those numbers aren’t really a surprise, given the state of SolarCity before the merger. Elon Musk just kicked his shareholders in the teeth. (This is from Business Insider in 2016.)

Now, in case you haven’t been following the SolarCity story, it’s the company that, a few minutes before this deal was announced, Goldman Sachs said was the “worst positioned” for growth in its sector.

So why would someone with no real experience in a business-turnaround capacity, buy such a company? It may only be a coincidence…

It’s also a company that is helmed by Elon Musk’s cousin, Lyndon Rive. Go figure.

Though the stock was down 60% in the year before the merger was announced. Maybe he thought it looked cheap.

Back to the MIT article linked at the top. It looks like Tesla won’t meet the employment numbers it committed to at its “gigafactory” to avoid the penalties inherent in that deal. Though they have another year to get there.

Last year, Tesla ended its months-old retail partnership with Home Depot, and shuttered a number of solar installation facilities. It’s reportedly cut thousands of workers in its solar division since the acquisition. The team also faced difficulties with the appearance and performance of the Solar Roof tiles.

A Bloomberg article late last year said Tesla was operating just one production line at the Buffalo factory, rather than the multiple lines that were supposed to be running at that stage.

And then there is the little issue of actually having a product to sell.

The team also faced difficulties with the appearance and performance of the Solar Roof tiles.

The other reason I always thought Tesla’s move into solar was a joke? (This is not covered in either article.) Musk talked about using his very expensive, lightweight lithium-ion battery technology in homes and businesses. In your phone you want a light battery. In a car you also want to reduce weight. In a building that doesn’t move, why is weight an issue? (Hint: It’s NOT.) In a building that doesn’t move, the issues are cost, life-span, and durability. Long-lasting, cheap batteries, that don’t have a tendency to catch on fire are most desirable. Most homes that rely on solar get by with good old-fashioned lead acid batteries. (Invest in the automatic watering setup!) Want to take a step up? Then there are Nickel-iron batteries. There are also Lithium-iron batteries, which are not lightweight, and not sold by Tesla, that some industrial applications use for backup. (Think cellphone towers in remote locations.) None of those examples move, so weight – critical in applications that specify lithium ion batteries – is basically ignored.

If You Live Behind a Dike, You Should Expect to be Flooded

It is the dirty little secret from the age when governments thought they could command the tides. Dike in Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac was inspected, but failed anyway.

While most people’s attention – in the US anyway – is focused on Davenport, Iowa, (at least on the subject of flooding) there has been another dike failure in the past week. That was on Ste-Marthe-sur-le-Lac in Quebec, Canada.

Hydrologist François Brissette says Saturday’s flooding tragedy was foretold for decades: “The reason they are protected by dikes is because their houses are built in a lake.”

As noted in that article, once upon a time, people only built (relatively cheap) vacation shacks in flood plains. That changed when folks decided that they wanted to live full-time on the river or the lake, and the .gov was happy to enable their bad decisions by building various flood control systems. But that doesn’t mean you are not in a flood zone.

And so Davenport, Iowa is in a similar situation, and facing more of the same. City to sound air horns if dike fails near Garden Addition.

Davenport officials are warning residents of the Garden Addition neighborhood about a possible dike failure that could worsen flooding in the West End.

Some houses were bought out after the 1993 flood, but not all. For those of you who don’t remember the 1993 flood, you can find a lot of info on the web. This article from STL News is pretty good as an overview. And 1993 wasn’t that long ago, but 26 years could have seen improvements.

And before anyone jumps on the point I am aware of the old saying, “God made the world, but the Dutch built Holland.” But take a look at what they spend on flood defenses, and get back to me on where in the US we want to sign up for similar expenditures. Assuming that the environmentalists haven’t decided that dikes/levees are not green enough.