Tesla’s Incendiary Mega-Batteries: The Bigger They Come, The Longer They Burn

Giant lithium-ion batteries are said to be the saviour of intermittent wind and solar. But their pesky habit of exploding into toxic fireballs suggests that they’re not really part of the ‘inevitable transition’ team, after all.

‘Bombs’ are designed to store and quickly release copious amounts of energy, so are the mega-batteries being rolled out around the globe.

The notion is that giant lithium-ion batteries will quell the power delivery chaos that comes with attempting to rely on wholly weather-dependent wind power and wholly sunshine-dependent solar power; thereby bringing stability and security to plenty a power grid teetering on the brink of collapse, all the consequence of our “inevitable transition” away from reliable and dependable power generation sources, like coal and gas.

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

Back in August last year, we reported on one such ‘green’ conflagration – where a Tesla mega-battery exploded in a toxic fireball in southwest Victoria, Australia, and burnt for days (see pics above and below).

But the explosive tendencies of giant batteries is not limited to Australia. A monster lithium-ion battery in California clearly has trouble keeping its cool: not for the first time (and, on current form, not for the last time) California’s biggest battery has burst into flames (again). In an apparent effort to keep a lid on public hysteria, its owner didn’t allow photographers anywhere near the scene.

The Largest Lithium-Ion Battery in the World Keeps Melting
Audrey Carleton
18 February 2022

The largest lithium-ion battery in the world experienced a meltdown over the weekend, its second in five months.

An energy storage facility owned by Vistra Energy in Moss Landing, California, triggered fire alarms on the evening of Feb. 13. Four fire trucks responded to the event and found around ten battery packs in the facility melted entirely, according to local broadcaster KSBW.

“The building’s systems contained the event without the need for outside assistance,” the company said in a Feb. 15 statement on the outage. “There are no injuries to personnel. An investigation is underway to determine what caused the safety system to activate. While this is in its very early stages, what we know is the water-based suppression system released water that contacted some batteries.”

Though it’s too early to know how the meltdown started, North Monterey County fire district chief Joel Mendoza told KSBW that the facility’s fire suppression system was activated and had successfully cooled the batteries when his team arrived on the scene “to the point that there wasn’t any flame or fire.

This is the second time in five months that the 300-megawatt facility has gone offline due to battery issues. The plant was less than a year old when the first incident took place in September, setting off sprinklers that damaged around 7,000 batteries, or 7 percent of the facility’s nearly 100,000 battery modules.

The energy generation company said in a release issued months after the September meltdown that the facility’s fire management software detected low levels of smoke in one area of the facility due to a “failed bearing in an air handling unit,” the company wrote, which armed the heat suppression system that, due to “failures of a small number of couplings on flexible hoses and pipes, sprayed water directly on a number of battery racks, causing some to overheat. This created more smoke, which generated more water, and so on.

In its statement regarding the latest meltdown, Vistra Energy said there are early indications that the September incident repeated itself. “There is early evidence that water hoses leaked and that some batteries shorted, creating smoke in the building, similar to what we observed with the September incident at our 300-MW Phase I facility next door,” the release states.

The most recent incident highlights how fragile battery storage systems are: Lithium-ion batteries ignite easily and the fires they generate are difficult to contain. Water only reacts with lithium—it doesn’t put lithium fires out. This poses problems for energy storage companies like Vistra, which are crucial to the renewable energy transition.

“The Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility is playing a key role in helping California achieve lower emissions and improve grid reliability, and systems like these will become more necessary as additional renewable power is integrated into electric grids across the US,” Vistra chief executive Curt Morgan said in a January release on the facility’s last meltdown.

In large facilities, any number of factors can create a cascading incident like Sunday’s meltdown. Vistra has embarked on an investigation into the source of this one, the company said in a statement. The facility remains offline in the meantime.

About stopthesethings

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


  1. Peter Pronczak says:

    Gee, not fit for purpose then?

  2. Reblogged this on whatyareckon and commented:
    Getting burnt while going green!

  3. Electric energy consumption in 2019 – per capita the biggest user was Iceland, followed by Norway, Finland, Canada, United Arab Emirates, Sweden, then the USA using almost 5x less than Iceland. With all the air conditioners in the southern states this is surprising. Is Iceland powered all electric?

    China electricity use per capita comes in even further down using 1/10th that of Iceland but overall use is highest. This is important to know as many times we hear China this or China that, the per capita numbers may be important to understand.

    India’s use per capita is 1/50th that of Iceland.

    It might be nice to compare how many electrical fires there are in these countries next to how much electricity they use per capita and compare this to other fuels the same way to see which is safer?


  4. Renewables’ advocates will never answer the questions “How much storage is needed for firm power? How much would that cost?”

    People have gotten real data from Scotland, Texas, all of North America, and California.

    The answer is 400-3000 watt hours’ storage per watt of average demand, depending upon location and the mix of solar and wind. Advocates tell us that an all-electric American energy economy would have 1,700 GWe average demand.

    Look up the price and longevity for batteries. Do the fourth-grade arithmetic. The result is FOUR TO THIRTY TIMES TOTAL USA GDP EVERY YEAR FOR BATTERIES ALONE!


  5. Is there anybody keeping a log of these major fire incidents at BESS facilities (and electric vehicles)?

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