Fire Risk Fears Threaten to Derail Battery Storage Deployment Critical to Energy Transition - Firetrace

There is a real danger public opposition to energy storage could grow significantly as a result of fire risk fears, threatening critical battery deployment and, as a result, net zero goals. This is according to a new report, “How to reduce battery storage fire risk’, published by Firetrace International, leading suppliers of fire suppression technology to the global renewable industry. 

Nations across the world are ramping up renewable energy supplies in order to meet the requirements of the Paris Agreement, and a corresponding rise in energy storage deployment is vital due to the intermittent nature of wind and solar power. Data from BloombergNEF shows that energy storage installations around the world are projected to reach a cumulative 411GW (or 1,194GWh) by the end of 2030. This represents a 15-fold increase on the 27GW/56GWh of storage that was online at the end of 2021.

However, concern for energy storage fire risk is rising, and incidents that do occur tend to attract a significant amount of negative publicity. This is resulting in the postponement of projects in the US and Canada and politicians in the UK calling for battery storage systems to be subject to checks by fire services.

High-profile fire incidents in battery storage have also had an impact on the insurance market. The report presents evidence that the appetite to cover energy storage projects has declined, with some insurers even exiting the market. This has resulted in increased premiums, higher excesses, and difficulties in securing 100% cover. Addressing the fire risk of battery storage has thus become a focal point for owners, contractors, and operators.

The report looks at the nine fire hazards faced by energy storage projects and the way in which the industry has already looked to mitigate these risks through planning, design, construction, and the installation of fire protection systems. In concluding, the report highlights the three next steps asset manufacturers, developers and owner operators must now take to mitigate the risk of fire:

1. Installing water-based fire suppressions systems, which are the most effective at cooling a fire in an energy storage system

2. Including a battery management system to monitor, control, and optimise performance of an individual or multiple battery modules and to enable disconnection  

3. Grouping energy storage units into small segments limited to certain amounts of kilowatt hours and spaced from other segments and walls

“There are fire suppression companies who claim their systems can suppress Li-Ion battery fires and prevent thermal runaway,” says Brian Cashion, Engineering Manager, Firetrace International. “We don’t believe the industry can make these claims yet because there is no publicly available test data proving these claims in real world test scenarios and doing so risks a second wave of public scrutiny. It is crucial we get the solution right.”

“At Firetrace, we have always taken a bespoke approach and we are working directly with manufacturers to design a solution that works specifically for each energy storage system. Our goal is to suppress fires in ancillary equipment and thereby prevent fire from spreading to the Li-Ion batteries and creating a cascading thermal runaway event. We are also working with OEM partners on research and development initiatives that target Li-Ion battery thermal runaway suppression. We welcome any opportunity to collaborate with players in the market to bring the best, most-effective fire suppression solution to the market, reduce the risk and restore public opinion. It’s very possible with the right planning, design and collaboration.”

The final area the report recommends changes in is within regulation. Regulation can play a big role in mitigating battery storage fire risk but, at present in the US, fire regulations vary from state to state, resulting in an array of different regulations informing design and installation, and manufacturers in some states consulting fire suppression specialists whereas others do not. Its report suggests that other states should adopt the International Fire Code (IFC) in place in New York and California.

 Firetrace International |