KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — A Knoxville-based solar power company is significantly reducing staff, one owner told 10News.
Richard Michael Atnip, who said he is a silent partner, said the company has gone from 400 employees seven months ago to fewer than 100 as of January 5.
10News found Atnip's number through LexisNexis Public Records and confirmed it with a former employee.
"Generac is the cause of faltering several healthy fast growing companies," Atnip texted 10News on Thursday. "Solar Titan and Solar Titan employees along with many of their customers fall victim to Generac and their failure of NOT announcing a national recall and stepping up to the plate to help their installers and customers."
Generac told 10News it's a leading manufacturer of solar and storage solutions. The company said it sells its products to a wide range of independent distributors and solar contractors.
"We are disappointed to hear of any instances where customers are not satisfied with the performance of their system," a spokesperson said. "Proper sizing, system requirements and installation in accordance with manufacturer guidelines is required for proper system performance and should be performed by qualified independent contractors."
Generac is facing at least three federal lawsuits, including a class action lawsuit from consumers, a class action lawsuit from employees and a lawsuit from Pink Energy, which blames Generac for putting them out of business.
"This is not a Solar Titan issue, this is a Generac issue," Atnip told 10News. "Solar Titan has been forced to reduce the staff significantly due to the ripple effect of Generac."
Generac said it stands by its products and warranty obligations. It said customers can contact firstname.lastname@example.org or 1-800-396-1281 to be paired with a Generac-authorized warranty service provider.
Atnip said Solar Titan is currently sourcing legal representation against Generac. He said the "overwhelming majority" of Solar Titan systems installed throughout the pandemic include Generac components.
When asked how many customers that includes, Atnip replied "enough to bring a very healthy company that had a 40,000 square foot corporate headquarters to its knees."
The attorneys general in Tennessee, Kentucky and Georgia are currently investigating Solar Titan. As of mid-December, they had received at least 140 formal complaints.
Atnip said he believes the majority of those complaints are because of Generac failures.
Mark La Palme, a disabled veteran in Kentucky, said he purchased a Solar Titan system last summer.
"We knew about the issues with Generac, so we stayed away from there," he said. "It worked for about three weeks and then pieces started to fail... They installed the new pieces, it broke again."
He said he paid $60,000 for what he describes as a "big weight" on top of his house.
"I believe that solar is a good thing to do," he said. "It's just a shame that you know that there's just so many issues with it at this point."
Three Solar Titan employees provided a Dec. 31 email from Brandon Stephens, who identified himself as Solar Titan's Chief Financial Officer.
He wrote employees about an agreement that "was signed to sell part of Solar Titan to another company."
Atnip did not directly answer any questions from 10News as to whether Solar Titan sold part of the company.
"Has Solar Titan sold part of the company, or just laid off those employees? Is there still support for existing customers?" 10News wrote.
"I am a silent partner and I do not handle the day to day operations but Solar Titan is doing everything within its ability to support and service the epic Generac component failures," Atnip replied.
A separation notice provided by one employee shows they were laid off in the customer care department due to a "lack of work."
Another employee told 10News they were laid off on Monday, but had yet to receive any formal documentation.
In December, 10News reported on a number of personal properties sold by Atnip.
Walton County, Fla., records show he sold a Miramar Beach home for $1.715 million on June 28.
Knox County records show he sold a Knoxville home for $550,000 on October 27.
He sold a waterfront mansion in Knox County for $9.75 million on November 15, according to property records.
"I reinvested several millions of dollars back into the company to support the company," Atnip said. "Solar Titan is doing everything within its ability to support and service the epic Generac component failures."
Original Full Statement from Richard Michael Atnip:
"Generac is not standing behind their large installers that have been aggressively trying to satisfy customers that have Generac components that have failed and keep failing and Generac is the cause of faltering several healthy fast growing companies and Solar Titan and Solar Titan employees along with many of their customers fall victim to Generac and their failure of NOT announcing a national recall and stepping up to the plate to help their installers and customers.
There is currently a class action law suit against Generac to represent consumers that have fallen victim to Generac epic component failures. As stated by Generac Executives “This is not a Solar Titan issue this is a Generac issue”
Please report the foundation and facts of why Solar Titan, a company that 7 months ago employed over 400 employees based in Knoxville Tennessee has been forced to reduce to less than 100 currently!"
Full Statement from Generac:
Generac is a leading manufacturer of solar + storage solutions, and we sell our products to a wide range of independent distributors and solar contractors.
We are disappointed to hear of any instances where customers are not satisfied with the performance of their system. Proper sizing, system requirements and installation in accordance with manufacturer guidelines is required for proper system performance and should be performed by qualified independent contractors.
We stand by our products and warranty obligations. If any customer has product concerns or needs warranty support for Generac components of their solar systems, they can contact us at email@example.com or 1-800-396-1281 for assistance. We will help pair such customers with a Generac-authorized warranty service provider.