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Tesla’s “Big Battery” Fire Raises Concerns About Lithium Risk

Battery update

A fire at one of the world’s largest Tesla battery facilities is drawing new attention to the risks of batteries used to store renewable energy in the power grid.

In Moulabourg, near Geelong, Australia, it took three days after the flames went out during the test in a shipping container containing a 13-ton lithium-ion battery to spread to a second battery pack.

The “Victorian Big Battery” project using the Tesla Megapack is the largest in the country and has 210 packs that can store up to 450 MW of energy for the power grid.

Owned and operated by French renewable energy developer Neoen, it was planned to go live before the peak demand period this summer. Neoen said it was too early to tell how the committee would be affected and that testing would only resume if safety conditions were met.

The incident occurred as utilities around the world, from Australia to California, became increasingly dependent on large lithium-ion batteries to store renewable energy from the wind and the sun. The same type of battery used in electric vehicles can quickly power the grid.

According to consultancy Wood Mackenzie, the amount of energy storage deployed last year increased by 62% and the market is set to grow 27-fold by the end of the decade.

Still, according to Professor Paul Christensen of Newcastle University, a total of 38 large-scale lithium-ion battery fires have occurred since 2018.

In Beijing, a fire at a lithium-ion battery facility in April killed two firefighters and took control of 235 firefighters. Last September, a large Lithium-ion battery in Liverpool owned by Danish renewable energy company Orsted ignited at midnight.

Lithium-ion batteries can ignite after a process called “thermal runaway.” This happens when the battery is overcharged or shattered. A mixture of heat and gas is produced and released, forming a vapor cloud that can ignite or explode.

In 2019, a grid-scale lithium battery fire in Arizona caused firefighters to be thrown more than 20 meters from the container door, causing brain damage and rib fractures. According to reports released after the incident, the fire began after a short circuit in one lithium-ion battery cell.

As the gas is released, “there is no clear answer as to the best way to deal with EVs. [electric vehicle] Fire or energy storage fire, “said Kristensen.

“they [lithium-ion batteries] Essential for the decarbonization of this planet, its penetration into society far exceeds our actual knowledge of the risks and dangers associated with them, “he said.

He said the risk would increase as individual homes increasingly install lithium-ion batteries to store energy from solar panels or to reduce their reliance on the power grid after a series of extreme weather events.

In Australia, fire brigades wore breathing equipment and hazmat suits when trying to contain the flames. FireRescue Victoria Said.. Drones have also been deployed.

Matt Deadman, chief director of alternative fuel and energy systems at the UK National Fire Chiefs’ Council, said lithium-ion battery fires burn much longer than regular fires, and water only reduces their spread. rice field.

“Cooling the battery can extinguish the flame, but when it breaks down, it produces its own oxygen. It keeps firing again. It takes as much heat as possible,” he says. increase. Said.

“At this point, we rely on trial-and-error fire extinguishing methods that use effective water, but it’s not a silver bullet to solve these problems as quickly as possible,” said Deadman.

Tesla Said Last month, revenue from the energy storage and power generation business, including the sale of Megapack batteries, more than doubled to $ 801 million in the last quarter.

Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, said safer variants of lithium-ion technology for the installation of large batteries, such as lithium-iron phosphate batteries, which use iron and phosphate instead of nickel and cobalt metals. Said it was suitable.

Gavin Harper, a researcher at the University of Birmingham, said: “Because rapid decarbonization is essential, it is imperative not to curb new innovations, but at the same time we need to take a proactive approach. We will roll out new technologies on a large scale.”

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Tesla’s “Big Battery” Fire Raises Concerns About Lithium Risk

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