Photo credit: muffet
Is BP Solar on fire? Or burning down. That is the general question these days, after an actual fire on a BP Solar installation in Germany raised some concerns for the solar arm of the oil industry giant. The incident in question occurred on a warehouse complex near Mannheim. The fire destroyed 200 square meters (over 2,150 sq. ft) of one of BP Solar’s largest installations in Germany.
Yet the fire by itself is only part of the problem. While the actual cause of the fire is unknown, it would appear that it started on the solar array itself and spread to the timber framed supports. Furthermore, this is not the first time BP Solar equipment has shown problems.
In recent years there have been complaints about their junction boxes and their tendency to overheat. In fact BP even recalled and replaced many of them in 2006 and 2007 as a precaution. Kai Alfermann, head of asset management at Fiege, the German company that owns the site on which the recent fire occurred, noted that this was not the first incident with this array and that, depending on the current investigation, Fiege may take legal action against BP Solar or the German installer of the system.
All this controversy about BP’s manufacturing quality and this fire (which reflects poorly on the rest of the solar industry as well) have resulted in some questions about BP Solar’s future. Just a few months ago BP Solar CEO Tony Hayward publicly announced his lack of faith in solar power to be competitive. Shortly thereafter Vivienne Cox, head of alternative energy at BP, left the company, which is shutting down the head office of its alternative energy business in London.
Nevertheless, BP stresses its long-term committment to alternative energy, including solar. BP most certainly invests much more in renewable energy than any of its competitors in the oil and gas industry. Although they may want to reassess their manufacturing process if it turns out their junction boxes are proven fire hazards. The solar industry is still relatively small and climbing up the energy industry ladder to be sure. BP Solar won’t make or keep many friends if their solar arrays continue to light up.
Source: Industrial Wind Action Group