Internal documents viewed by the outlet revealed that six out of 47 sites in North America with solar installations experienced “critical fire or arc flash events” between April 2020 and June 2021, costing an average of $2.7 million per incident. Among other examples, an Amazon warehouse in Perryville, Maryland, caught fire last year and caused $500,000 in damages.
“The rate of dangerous incidents is unacceptable, and above industry averages,” an Amazon employee reportedly wrote in one of the documents.
According to a press release published last year, Amazon is “the largest corporate buyer of renewable energy globally” and maintains 206 green energy projects around the world. At the time, Amazon had been on pace toward “100% renewable energy” by 2025.
In 2019, Amazon committed to achieving net-zero carbon emissions by 2040. The e-commerce giant is also a founding member of the First Movers Coalition — a group of companies brought together by the World Economic Forum and the Biden administration to leverage market power and accelerate global green energy adoption.
“We welcome the Biden administration and the World Economic Forum’s decision to launch the First Movers Coalition, which will help further accelerate our efforts to decarbonize our operations through real business change and innovation,” Amazon CEO Andy Jassy said in a recent report on the company’s Environmental, Social, and Governance (ESG) efforts. The report did not mention the expenses incurred by the solar panel fires.
Amazon spokeswoman Erika Howard told CNBC that the company powered off all onsite solar installations in North America and commissioned an outside firm to inspect each facility. “As inspections are completed, our onsite solar systems are being powered back on,” she said. “Amazon also built a team of dedicated solar experts overseeing the construction, operations, and maintenance of our systems in-house to ensure the safety of our systems.”
Amazon is losing $940,000 per month for each of the 47 facilities at which the solar panels remain offline, according to the documents. Whole Foods, a grocery chain owned by Amazon, also has multiple solar roof systems.
The Inflation Reduction Act, which includes $369 billion in spending for various climate policies, established 30% tax credits for new solar installations. According to a fact sheet from the White House, the legislation allows for the installation of 950 million new solar panels by 2030.
As gas prices increased following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Energy Secretary Jennifer Granholm and other top Biden administration officials have repeatedly urged the rapid adoption of renewable energy to compensate for high costs at the pump.
“The real truth is that as long as our nation remains overly reliant on oil and fossil fuels, we will feel these price shocks again,” Granholm said earlier this year. “This is not going to be the last time. The next time there’s a war, the next time there’s a pandemic or another hurricane, these extreme weather events we are experiencing — they will impact the access that we have to fossil fuels.”