He paid Tesla for a solar panel system. 4 years later he never got to use it

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) — In June 2018, Tesla’s SolarCity installed roof panels and wall chargers on Ben Kulia’s multi-unit home in Manoa.

The project was supposed to save him money ― while helping the environment.

But all it did was give him grief. To date, the system does not generate any energy or savings for him.

“There’s no proper permit, I can’t turn it on,” he said. “And so the system is right on my roof. And I really feel mental anguish every time I come home.

The city’s planning and permitting department said it had been waiting since October 2019 for documents from Tesla before it could approve the permit. Telsa told Kulia they were working on it.

But in March, communication stopped and all customer service inquiries were routed to a call center.

After more than $50,000 in roof repairs, installation costs and attorney fees, the Hawaiian doctor feels abandoned.

In desperation, Kulia tweeted Tesla CEO Elon Musk asking for his help.

“The system just sits there, you know, because the solar cell degrades over time,” Kulia said. “I don’t have a lot of resources to sue Tesla.”

Since its system was installed, Kulia says the cost of its electricity is 60% higher.

He estimates he lost over $30,000 in potential energy savings.

Like Kulia, HNN could not reach anyone at Tesla for this story. So we spoke to the Hawaii Solar Energy Association. Tesla is a member company and its executive director called Kulia’s case an anomaly.

“We are at the side of our member companies. They adhere to a code of ethics,” said Rocky Mould, executive director of the Hawaii Solar Energy Association. “We apply this code of ethics for our members and part of that is being upfront, honest and transparent in all dealings with customers.”

After Mold informed Tesla of Kulia’s case, Kulia received an email regarding her project.

He is still waiting to speak to his contractor.

Mold said a backlog of permit applications and supply chain issues mean systems can take a year to come online.

“Good installers do their best to get those permits and interconnect requests. And it’s not their fault. A lot of it, you know, it’s really a mix of things,” Mold said.

If a contractor fails to complete your project, you can file a complaint with the state’s Better Business Bureau and Regulated Industries Complaints Office, which can revoke a company’s license.

“The most important thing for consumers will be patience, as entrepreneurs have to go through the authorization process. They don’t control that,” said Roseann Freitas of the Better Business Bureau. “However, they do control setting realistic expectations for when the product will arrive and when that work might be completed.”

Another option is to hire another contractor to complete the project, but Kulia hopes he doesn’t have to.

“I do my best to be the best possible human being,” he said.

“And I just hope Tesla sees that and helps me back.”

Comments are closed.