Tesla Megapack fire highlights early-stage issues with ‘big batteries’

A Tesla Megapack in Moss Landing, California

Andrew Evers | CNBC

A Tesla Megapack hearth at the Victorian Big Battery in Southeast Australia was brought beneath management Monday afternoon, with hearth crews remaining on site Tuesday to make sure ruined gear would not reignite, according to the Region Hearth Authority.

Inspections and investigations are now underway to ascertain what prompted it.

The battery is owned and operated by renewable strength giant Neoen, and was designed together with companions together with Tesla Vitality and AusNet with some development by Cimic Group’s UGL. Tesla has not disclosed what varieties of cells it utilised in the Megapacks for this venture, nor from which suppliers.

When the Victorian Big Battery is not the initially process of its variety, it is one particular of the world’s biggest battery power storage programs. Tesla’s Powerpack and Megapack products are almost certainly the best-acknowledged significant batteries, but opponents abound, which includes from LG Power Options, SK Innovation, Northvolt and Powin Electricity.

Outcomes of the investigation will be carefully watched, and could influence the way these kinds of methods are designed and created, according to Paul Christensen, a professor of electrochemistry at Newcastle University whose study focuses on lithium ion battery fires and safety.

Without having speaking to the Victorian Major Battery’s design and style particularly, Christensen stated he would like to see fire and rescue groups concerned early on in the layout and set up of electricity storage devices. “If the style is accredited, and then the fireplace and rescue provider are brought in — that’s the mistaken way close to,” he explained.

Among the other issues, builders of utility-scale batteries need to give a indicates of checking the system that would allow house owners, operators and fireplace crews to see what is going on inside the process at any time.

Christensen also mentioned these devices really should be designed to make it possible for house for initial responders to maneuver about and intention a hose. Loads of h2o should really obtainable on web page, with plenty of hydrants installed. Containers would preferably have “dead pipes” that are capped and stick out, allowing for firefighters to join a hose, then action absent and flood the container to extinguish the flames from a risk-free length.

At the second, h2o continues to be the best way to suppress a fireplace in any lithium ion battery electrical power storage system, no matter whether that’s in a ship, an electric vehicle or bus, or a big procedure to retail outlet and dispatch vitality at a electric power plant.

Researchers are exploring other suppressants and methods, but fires melt away notably warm and repeated re-ignition is a chance with lithium ion battery cells.

Given that lithium ion battery technological know-how is reasonably new, you can find not more than enough facts about how secure significant energy storage programs are and in which improvements can continue to be designed, Christensen explained.

If fires hold taking place, the professor fears that could have a chilling outcome on investments in big batteries, even although they supply key environmental and cost rewards, and assistance protect communities from extended blackouts.

“The number of instances involving lithium ion batteries, fires and explosions of all sorts, in conditions of the range of lithium ion batteries on the earth is nevertheless little,” Christensen said. “When an electric car or truck or a massive vitality storage installation goes up, it really is significant news. This can induce a disproportionate sum of stress.”

There have been all over 40 acknowledged fires that have transpired in just large-scale, lithium ion battery energy storage programs, in accordance to Christensen’s exploration. People incidents, most of which happened in the previous 3 a long time, date back again to 2012, and contain 4 fires at three amenities in the U.S. in Arizona, Wisconsin and Illinois.

A 2019 disaster at the McMicken battery plant in Shock, Arizona, seriously wounded 4 emergency responders and is the most profound incident at a massive battery in the U.S. to-date. Utility Arizona General public Support owns the web-site, and Fluence experienced delivered that battery technique.

In Beijing, two firefighters died, one particular a lot more was hurt and one more 1st responder was missing immediately after responding to a fire in a lithium-iron phosphate battery, which was linked to a rooftop solar set up at a purchasing mall.

Lithium-iron phosphate batteries are now regarded as to be the safest form of lithium ion battery, since the construction of the product in its cathode would not split down until bigger temperatures in comparison to other sorts of batteries, for case in point, that incorporate nickel manganese cobalt.

The basic safety of big vitality units utilizing LFP batteries is presently remaining reviewed in light of modern developments.

No injuries noted

The Tesla Megapack fire in the Victorian Massive Battery was safely contained with no injuries reported.

In a assertion e-mailed to CNBC Wednesday morning in Victoria, Louis de Sambucy, the Controlling Director of Neoen Australia elaborated that the flames from the Tesla Megapacks in the Victorian Major Battery Hearth experienced “subsided” Friday night, and that Tesla staff and contractors ended up on-web site with unexpected emergency products and services to “monitor the temperature decline of the two afflicted battery packs” after that.

The Tesla Megapack fireplace initial happened in just the 300 megawatt (450 megawatt hours) technique in Geelong, Victoria setting up Friday morning. More than 30 hearth vehicles and assist autos and about 150 fire fighters from the CFA and nearby Fireplace Rescue Victoria responded, that contains the flames so they only impacted two Megapacks of the around 210 that make up the program.

Bordering neighborhoods acquired poisonous air alerts but the air high quality had enhanced to much healthier stages by Sunday.

Tesla, AEMO and others did not reply to requests for even further information and facts including when they expect to full an investigation into the trigger of the fireplace, what they suspect the bring about may perhaps be, and when they will be able to rebuild, complete tests of the big battery and hook up it to the energy grid.