Giant Batteries Bomb: Renewable Energy Storage Systems Literally Setting The World On Fire

California’s Bomb-Maker-In-Chief.

 

Renewable energy rent-seekers have been furiously peddling the myth that mega-batteries were a free and easy solution to the hopeless intermittency of weather-dependent wind and solar.

The line goes that giant banks of lithium ion cells can store ‘free and abundant’ wind and solar power, whenever the sun is up and the wind is blowing (just right). Then, at absolutely zero cost to power consumers, these monster grid-scale batteries can lovingly release groovy ‘green’ power at any time that businesses and households need it.

Giant lithium ion batteries are touted as the antidote to the inherent chaos that comes with attempting to rely upon sunshine and breezes; bringing stability and security to a grid on the brink of collapse.

Back in 2017, South Australia, Australia’s wind power capital, squandered $150 million on one of Elon Musk’s creations, that would power the state for all of 4 minutes when the wind stops blowing and/or the sun goes down.

Giant lithium ion batteries are touted as the antidote to the inherent chaos that comes with attempting to rely upon sunshine and breezes; bringing stability and security to a grid on the brink of collapse.

But there’s nothing ‘stable and secure’ about lithium batteries.

As Samsung mobile phone owners are painfully aware, lithium batteries have a horrifying habit of spontaneous ignition. STT has fond memories of watching fellow airline passengers being berated for having a Samsung 7 in their pocket.

And there have been plenty of incidents where the lithium batteries in Tesla’s electric cars have exploded in flames.

Now, it’s grid-scale explosions and conflagrations that we need to be concerned about, not just the odd exploding Telsa S and Samsung 7.

Aggressive load-shifting could increase battery fire risk- investigators
IHS Markit
Jim Day
6 February 2020

Raising serious concerns about the safety of battery storage, investigators into the alarming spate of lithium-ion battery fires in South Korea said one of the primary causes was the practice of using nearly the full charging and discharging battery capacity on a daily basis—a pattern that can roughly correspond with plans by U.S. operators to use storage to shift wind and solar generation to the evening periods of peak demand.

Last year, South Korean government officials largely halted deployment of new lithium-ion battery systems and urged operators to curtail operations of existing ones after 23 battery fires broke out over a year-and-a-half. Many owners continued operating, however, and in recent months another five battery fires have been reported in South Korea, which had represented the world’s largest market for stationary battery storage before the fires cratered new deployments.

South Korea’s Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy completed a months-long investigation into the fires in June, generally concluding that they were caused by a range of issues including lack of protections against shocks, faulty installation practices and control systems that were incompatible with some components.

More broadly, though, investigators at DNV GL—a global engineering standards firm contracted to investigate the root cause of one of the fires—said the common practice in South Korea of cycling the lithium-ion batteries from close to 0 percent to 100 percent and then back down again on a daily basis has led to extreme wear-and-tear on the systems and was an underlying cause of failures in the battery cells that sparked the fires.

That hard-driving cycling pattern, which has been common in South Korean storage systems co-located with wind and solar farms to shift the output to periods of higher demand, is different from most batteries deployed to date in the United States, where they have been used primarily for fast-responding frequency regulation within a narrower and less-stressful band.

“If we start cycling those batteries as aggressively as we do in Korea, we will likely see similar failure rates,” George Garabandic, DNV GL’s energy storage leader for the Asia-Pacific region, told The Energy Daily. “It should be expected that a higher component stress will result in higher levels of random component failures. In other, more developed energy storage system (ESS) markets, the batteries are providing services similar to frequency regulation, and the component stress is relatively milder.”

If accurate, that assessment could prove problematic for U.S. utility-scale battery developers, who are increasingly co-locating storage with solar generation and touting its ability to charge up during the day when the sun is shining and then discharging that power in the late afternoon and evening—a cycle that more closely resembles the pattern in South Korea where the dozens of fires have broken out.

In fact, most of the fires under investigation in Korea were at facilities co-located with renewable resources, according to Korean media accounts.

Such deep cycling to shift load has long been known to accelerate degradation of lithium-ion batteries, with researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) reporting in 2017 that batteries used daily for such utility-scale applications will wear out in seven years even if depth-of-discharge (DOD) is limited to 74 percent. Batteries will wear out in 10 years if DOD is further limited to just 54 percent, according to NREL’s estimates.

Given that accelerated degradation and the potential to raise risks of fires that comes with deep cycling, U.S. battery operators often strictly limit the depth-of-discharge, but that can severely constrain the system’s ability to significantly shift renewable energy to periods of high demand as advertised. Battery experts also stress that there are ways to limit the threat of fires even with more aggressive cycling, which the industry is rapidly developing and working to adopt.

The risk of battery fires gained prominence last April when an explosion at Arizona Public Service’s McMicken battery facility near Phoenix sent several firefighters to the hospital. Arizona regulators were subsequently surprised to learn that a fire in 2014 also destroyed APS’s Mt. Elden battery storage system.

The cause of the McMicken fire is still under investigation, but in the meantime APS has suspended plans to deploy 850 megawatts of battery storage—which had been the nation’s largest battery storage initiative—until the utility can figure out what happened.

Lithium-ion batteries can present heightened risks of fire, in part due to a phenomenon called “thermal runaway,” in which excessive heat in the battery can create more heat that can then cause cascading fires in adjacent battery cells, according to a battery risk assessment compiled by the insurance group AIG.

The burning batteries also release highly toxic hydrofluoric acid, cyanide and other gases that can explode upon ignition, which is what appears to have happened in the McMicken fire, according to a November 5 preliminary report from APS.

While the chances of an individual battery cell failing and starting a fire is extremely remote, Garabandic from DNV GL noted that large battery storage systems can have the equivalent of 10 million or more lithium-ion cells packed into a small space.

“One cell out of those 10 million will fail and if, in such circumstances, we don’t implement adequate safety measures, a cascading effect will certainly lead to a large-scale fire,” he said. “The lack of such safety measures has been the main reason why the accidents in Korea had such catastrophic outcomes; and consequently, the entire Korean ESS industry was brought to a halt.”

To strengthen safety, battery operators must recognize that an individual cell is likely to fail at some point, and therefore use monitoring analytics to replace cells that present risks before they fail, Garabandic said.

Beyond that, developers must implement “all technical and operational measures that will prevent the cascading effect of failures and contain the damage to a reasonable level,” he said.

Those measures include barriers between cells to prevent cascading fires, adequate control and monitoring systems and proper ventilation of potentially explosive gases, along with systems that can douse a burning battery cell quickly with water, which counterintuitively has been shown to be the best way to extinguish a battery fire.

Battery experts have reported that various technologies already exist that effectively reduce lithium-ion battery fire risks, and that safety will improve in the still-nascent storage industry as these are scaled up and integrated into manufacturing and installation processes.

Korean battery makers LG Chem and Samsung have recently attained compliance with newly developed international battery fire prevention standards, and the U.S. Energy Storage Association last year released guidelines for best practices to reduce fire risk in an effort to address what is emerging as a serious threat to the fast-growing industry.

Several battery makers also are touting different chemistries as inherently safer alternatives to traditional lithium-ion batteries. Among these are Sonnen, SimpliPhi and Chinese battery giant Contemporary Amperex Technology, which are marketing lithium iron phosphate batteries they say are less likely to catch fire and are less toxic if they do start to burn.
IHS Markit

Jim Day does an admirable job in downplaying the seriousness of having giant toxic fireballs erupting in suburban backyards and regional centres.

There is, however, another name for devices that store and suddenly release monumental amounts of energy, and STT is happy to spell it out, they’re called: B-O-M-B-S.

Here’s a story from our archives about one of these so-called storage devices determining to release a whole bunch of ‘green’ energy, in a furious hurry.

Wind power backup and storage batteries explode into flames and send a toxic cloud over the city of Brussels
Wind Watch
Marc Deroover
12 November 2017

A wind power storage battery has exploded into flames at a power station located near the city of Brussels. The fire resulted in a cloud of toxic fumes that flew over the city and forced thousands of people to stay at home.

The battery was part of the first real live testing of power batteries being used to store wind power in Belgium. After less than one month, the test miserably failed with the battery being destroyed by fire and residents hiding in their houses to escape the polluted cloud. Here is the story.

On Saturday the 11th of November 2017, around noon, people in some western areas of the city of Brussels (Belgium) could smell a strong and irritating odour that some described as being similar to the smell of “burning plastic”.

A little later, the population was informed of a fire going on in the Electrabel-Engie power plant located at Drogenbos. Electrabel-Engie is the main electricity producer in Belgium, and operates a gas turbine power plant in Drogenbos, a village located at the western limit of the city of Brussels – where the wind came from at the time of the accident.

An official alert was broadcast by the Belgian authorities:

Which translates to “Fire in the ENGIEelectrabel plant at Drogenbos. Toxic smell. Alert activated. Follow recommendations: as a precaution close doors and windows”

And the news outlets were covered with pictures like this one:

Still a bit later, some local newspapers explained that “a container-size lithium battery has blown up in flames. The fire has produced a cloud of potentially toxic smoke”. The message circulating on the social networks was that “a cloud full of toxic lithium was blowing over the city”.

 

It took several hours for firemen to control the fire. The alert was lifted around 4pm local time. No injuries were reported, although some people did complain of respiratory irritation.

At that time the population was informed that “Measures of air pollution were normal and they were no more risks for health or the environment”. However they didn’t say what were the pollutants found in previous measurements and in what quantities they were present in the air.

So what went wrong? You can find part of the answer on the Belgian Engie web site (http://www.engie.be/en/drogenbos-to-store-renewable-energy-on-a-large-scale/) in an article written in English and dated July 10, 2017.

Under the title “Drogenbos to store renewable energy on a large scale”, the article explains that:

Conventional power stations consistently ensure adjustable, predictable power generation. If they are replaced (as will increasingly be the case) by less predictable solar and wind energy, a solution will have to be found to continue guaranteeing a steady supply of electricity and safeguard grid stability. For the grid requires a constant balance between power generation and consumption. So what’s the solution? Master the large-scale storage of electricity …

Several containers containing batteries, transformers, converters and computers have been installed at ENGIE’s Energy Storage Park. The aim is to conduct trials on storing 20 MWh of renewable energy …

This will the first time that large batteries have been tested in Belgium. ENGIE’s Energy Storage Park will simultaneously serve as both a test bed and a laboratory. ENGIE will start by testing lithium batteries with a maximum capacity of 6 MW, produced by four different manufacturers, exposing them all to the same conditions …

Starting in October 2017, the facilities at ENGIE’s Energy Storage Park should be able to draw electricity from the grid when too much power is being generated, store it in the batteries and then reinject it into the system when needed.

So, apparently, they did indeed start up full-scale testing of their carefully selected batteries.

But it took less than one month for the first of them to blow up in flames and force tens of thousands of inhabitants to stay hidden indoors to avoid the toxic cloud that resulted from this experiment.

One of the mainstream newspapers has reported a press release of the Electrabel-Engie group saying that the “battery that has burned was not in operation at the time the fire broke out”. Let’s hope that at least this one is fake news, otherwise it would mean that these batteries are just chemical bombs ready to explode at any time.

If the dream of wind proponents is to materialize, our landscapes will be scattered with such container-size batteries. In the light of what occurred this weekend in Drogenbos, authorities everywhere should take note and impose on the industry safety measures to protect the public and avoid the possibility of another such accident.

Not a single article in the local media mentioned the link between the battery that has polluted the city of Brussels and wind power backup and storage requirements.

For the uninformed reader, the message was that “the villain Electrabel that operates nuclear power plants has once again polluted the environment”. But this accident was really due to the presence of wind turbines in the power production system.

We should see it as chemical pollution directly related to supposedly ‘clean’ wind power.
Wind Watch

Welcome to your exciting wind, sun and battery ‘powered’ future!

Oh, here’s a more recent fiery glimpse of your inevitable transition to wind and solar, this time from South Korea.

About stopthesethings

We are a group of citizens concerned about the rapid spread of industrial wind power generation installations across Australia.

Comments

  1. Have you seen one of those EV battery fires? There is a video on the net showing a Tesla in Chinese parking spontaneously erupting into fire. That was already quite impressive. Now imagine an electric truck. Batteries would have to be a good deal bigger. Do you want to walk by one of those while it’s parked and it may explode? Put it on a plane – wanna board when you know what may happen? Imagine on a ship – what would happen if one of those bursts into fie in a busy shipping lane such as Suez? Questions …

  2. Crispin bpm says:

    If Elon Musk, or Drax from Moonraker, wants to improve his PR. Could he, she, they, it… please come up with a 21st Century method of fighting bushfires.

    One possible clue as the how to go about this could be staring us in the face. The fire extinguisher in our kitchen has a very interesting ingredient.

    CO2!!!

    Ah Jaws. I know how you feel mate!

    Moonraker (8/10) Movie CLIP – Drax’s Deadly Dream (1979) HD

    Published by Movieclips

  3. Australian Standard AS/NZS 5139:2019 which specifies how and where home storage batteries such as the much touted Tesla Powerwall batteries are installed was released last year. The 2017 draft of this standard proposed bans on installing such batteries indoors, but in response to loud squeals from the renewables industry the technical committee responsible for the standard overturned these prudent measures in favour of allowing these potential fire bombs to be located in doors.
    Maybe it’s relevant to note that the Clean Energy Council (the mouthpiece of the wind and solar industries) has strong representation on the technical committee concerned.
    We all recall the deaths and house fires associated with the Pink Bats fiasco, could it be we face a new hazard due to the inappropriate location of devices which might be considered just a little more dangerous than your ordinary, passive pink bat?

  4. JCscuba says:

    I’ve known this for years and have even written about it. You would think that those on the green Weiner side would have the brains to ask where does the electricity come from? Try Coal.

  5. Plus don’t forget that Malaysia Airlines Flight 370 may have disappeared due to a battery fire: https://www.businessinsider.com/exploding-batteries-in-mh370-cargo-hold-2015-10

  6. Reblogged this on Gds44's Blog.

  7. Now we know what St. Greta is talking about when she keeps repeating that the world is on fire.

  8. I went to the APS website which states, “Around 5 p.m. on April 19, [2019] there were reports of smoke from the battery system at APS’s McMicken site in Surprise, Arizona. Hazardous Material units and first responders arrived on scene to secure the area. For reasons still unknown, the system subsequently experienced a catastrophic failure, resulting in injured first responders who were transported to area hospitals. An investigation led by APS, first-responder representatives, the system integrator, manufacturers and third-party engineering and safety experts is underway to determine the cause of the incident.”

    I have archived this page at https://http://horsepower.net/APS-BATTERY-FIRE.pdf

    So they were transported to hospitals because of clean green mean dark energy storage monsters. Yes this can happen at oil refineries but this is so called “clean energy” which happens to all be based entirely on fossil fuels and I think if we compared storage systems we might find that oil, natural gas, coal, and nuclear have a better record so far.

    There is also a problem of these emergency responders not allowed nor able to get into a 49 square mile zone of turbines by efficient life saving helicopters. They are forced to only go in by horse and buggy as the green freaks ban all fossil fuels which even cave men used or if the fossil fuels are not yet banned in that region they can go in with their fossil fuel based mostly plastic Prius response chariots powered with batteries.

  9. I know that the 170 turbine 755 foot tall industrial wind mess at Chevelon Canyon will be on 49 square miles of pristine land ruining it for decades at least or centuries if they are never torn down after their 12 year typical life as with the Steel Winds project on Lake Erie but how many square miles will these battery systems take up including all the mining and manufacturing facilities as well as the placement of these on the grid and those facilities?

  10. “Batteries will wear out in 10 years if DOD is further limited to just 54 percent” – so the solution is “easy” just buy twice as many batteries. Anyone who thinks this is the answer to intermittent wind and solar is seriously innumerate.

  11. Reblogged this on uwerolandgross.

  12. Reblogged this on ajmarciniak.

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