Pink Energy files lawsuit against Generac, says faulty equipment led to millions in damages

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Pink Energy files lawsuit against Generac, says faulty equipment led to millions in damages

On August 1st, 2022, Power Home Solar (DBA Pink Energy) filed a lawsuit against Generac Power Systems in the U.S. District Court in Virginia. Throughout the 37 pages of its complaint, Power Home Solar's lawyers lay out arguments claiming Generac has caused "ongoing financial damage and extraordinary harm to its business reputation."

Power Home Solar (PHS) alleges that Generac supplied faulty equipment that caused fires on the roofs of a few of its customers and hundreds of system failures in others' homes. Specifically, PHS claims that faults were present in the design of Generac's system for rapid shutdown of solar panel output in the event of a system failure. Such devices are required by the National Electric Code to protect emergency workers like firefighters from being shocked by active solar panels.

Generac's PWRcell solar battery system uses rapid shutdown devices called SnapRS that are connected to the negative lead of each solar panel in an array. PHS claims the original design of these devices, with model numbers RS801 and RS801A, experienced failure rates of as much as 50% during 2021 and early 2022. PHS says the SnapRS devices were responsible for at least two fires on the homes of its customers and could be responsible for a third.

A diagram showing how the SnapRS devices fit within the PWRcell system

A diagram showing how the SnapRS devices fit within the PWRcell system. Image source: Generac

In its complaint, PHS says that once Generac became aware of widespread problems with SnapRS units, it issued a firmware update to prevent the devices from overheating. The complaint goes on to allege that there were two problems with this update:

  • Some PHS customers didn’t have their systems connected to the internet, and therefore never received the new firmware
  • Those that did receive the new firmware began experiencing issues with system failures called “PVRSS Lockouts” as their PWRcell inverters shut down strings of solar panels containing SnapRS devices that exhibited instability

As its customers’ PWRcell inverters began having these problems en masse, PHS says it was faced with a massive influx of new calls to its customer support center, with call volume increasing from 800 to 30,000 per month. It claims it had to “hire and train additional customer service representatives, field service technicians, and other employees,” and that those employees performed 16,000 in-person service calls related to SnapRS problems at a cost of over $1,000 per call.

In addition to allegations of the direct costs of SnapRS failures, PHS says that it suffered reputational damage and a massive decrease in the valuation of the company, from $1.05 billion in September 2021 to $452 million as of June 2022.

Examining the claims

It is true that PHS customers have been gathering online to share their negative experiences with the company and its solar installations, and before this lawsuit was filed, much of the attention and outrage had been focused on PHS itself, and not Generac.

Numerous Facebook groups, websites, and BBB reviews call the company out for providing substandard and/or improperly-installed equipment, poor customer service, and deceptive sales practices. Negative coverage of PHS by news organizations from around the country has led some people to conclude that PHS's re-brand to "Pink Energy" was in part a response to the negative publicity it got under the previous brand identity.

Many of those complaints have to do with exactly the kind of problems PHS says the Generac equipment failures have caused. But other claims have nothing to do with equipment failures, instead focusing on issues with sales tactics, project timelines, and broken promises. While issues with faulty equipment could be responsible for complaints about non-working solar installations, systemic problems within PHS are the likely cause of the other complaints.

That said, Generac itself reached out to PHS customers in mid-June of 2022, with an email from President of Services Keith Marett that said “To the extent you have experienced product concerns with your system, please know that Generac fully stands behind delivering quality products and honoring our warranty, and together with Power Home Solar, we have been tirelessly working on a resolution to address such issues.”

Marett goes on to say “To address these issues… we are introducing our next-generation rapid shutdown device, the new SnapRS802, which has been designed and engineered to the highest safety and reliability standards,” but stops short of promising the replacement of all SnapRS801 and 801A units with the updated model.

For its part, PHS said in its complaint that Generac has been “unable to supply PHS with sufficient volume of SnapRS 802s to account for the number of customers experiencing PVRSS Lockouts and other SnapRS-related issues.”

Ongoing coverage

The question of just who is responsible for the damage to the Power Home Solar brand and the value of the damages caused will have to be left up to the District Court in Virginia. PHS included 11 counts in its complaint, including breach of contract, negligence, and breach of warranty. It will have to convince a jury that its claims have merit.

As of this writing, the case hasn’t progressed far from the initial filing of the complaint. We’ll continue to update this article as new developments occur.

 - Author of Solar Reviews

Ben Zientara

Solar Policy Analyst and Researcher

Ben is a writer, researcher, and data analysis expert who has worked for clients in the sustainability, public administration, and clean energy sectors.

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