SolarEdge is an Isreal-headquartered provider of solar inverter systems. It is a public company listed on the Nasdaq valued at approximately $15 Billion.
Solar inverters convert solar energy into electrical energy that can be used by electrical grids. In addition to solar inverters, SolarEdge sells monitoring platforms, some of which communicate with the inverter and connect to the internet wirelessly through T-Mobile cellular networks.
SolarEdge explains that the 3G cell plan in the SolarEdge modem “is being prematurely discontinued” by T-Mobile. Once the network is shut down, the inverters will still produce solar energy, but access to the following cellular-based features will stop: energy monitoring, real-time usage reports, remote installer maintenance, and Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SRECs) incentives.
Not only does loss of these features represent a loss of expected features which customers purchased, it also represents loss of income customers counted on. SRECs provide compensation for every megawatt hour of solar energy a system generates. In Massachusetts bid prices for SRECs run ~$287, meaning that an 8-kilowatt solar system generating about 8 megawatts of energy per year would generate $2,300 per year. Customers unwilling or unable to afford to upgrade their systems will lose out on these incentives.
When SolarEdge initially installed their 3G-compatible inverters, SolarEdge did not tell customers about the possibility that they would need upgrades. One customer writes “I was under the impression the inverter would work for at least 12 years per the warranty.” (The same here. Another customer says “I was never told by my solar installer that I’d have to pay extra to keep my data connection active…It never showed up in the calculation of how much I should expect to pay for the system or the time it would take to break even on the system cost.”
To keep communication with the monitoring platform open, customers will have to upgrade, with cost estimates ranging from $400 to $1200. Customers under warranty are still expected to cover these costs, even if they purchased the inverter as little as 3 years ago. SolarEdge explains that “inverter warranty extension applies to the inverty only and does not apply to any built-in communication accessories”.
Despite the impact of the 3G network shutdown, SolarEdge delayed in telling customers about the issue. SolarEdge was installing and replacing inverters with ones with 5G-compatibility as recently as summer 2021 without having informed customers with 3G-compatible modems that their services would be lost.
SolarEdge’s warranty terms do not contain an arbitration provision. SolarEdge’s Communication Plan Terms and Conditions, which may govern the cellular hardware at issue here, also do not contain an arbitration provision (note that these terms were first drafted in March of 2021 and did not exist before that. Therefore, the Communication Plan Terms may not apply to Solar Edge Inverters that were purchased before March 2021).