As the world moves towards electrifying the transport system with the utilisation of electric cars, scooters, busses, trains etc. we need to make sure we take into account the inherent dangers of lithium-ion batteries.
It is not uncommon for lithium-ion batteries to catch fire while charging whether they are in phones, computers, work tools, house batteries or electric vehicles. There are many instances of houses and businesses being burnt due to these fires.
One of the issues with lithium-ion battery fires is the temperatures the fire will quickly get to (excess of 1000oC) and the speed with which the fire will spread to anything adjoining it. The biggest issue is that fire brigades are unable to easily extinguish a lithium-ion battery fire. All they can really do is protect surrounding assets to prevent the fire spreading.
The Tesla Victorian big battery fire at Moorabool near Geelong in Victoria is another example of why smaller community-based neighbourhood batteries are a preferable way forward for making the energy supply more renewable. With smaller installations that are more spread out and serve the community in which they are based there is less likelihood of larger electricity supply interruptions when a large power supplier has issues and has to be taken off line for safety reasons.
The 300MW/450MWH capacity big battery comprised of Tesla batteries in multiple shipping containers was registered with AEMO on 28th July 2021. During testing on 30th July 2021 one cell failed and caught fire and quickly engulfed the container in which the batteries were housed. This then spread to another container which was also destroyed. Luckily fire fighters were able to keep other containers cool enough so that they didn’t also catch fire. The blaze was finally extinguished 4 days later. 150 firefighters and 30 fire trucks and support vehicles attended the fire along with many other multi-agency specialists.
On June 14, 2016, four researchers at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory were preparing to ship a waist-high, ape-like robot named RoboSimian off-site. The robot had been built to rescue people from dangerous situations that were to difficult for human rescuers. The scientists swapped one lithium-ion battery for a fresh one, then left for lunch to let the new power supply charge.
Unfortunately, the new lithium ion battery malfunctioned and went into thermal runaway. Luckily the researchers were no longer in close proximity to the robot so no-one was hurt, although NASA have said there have been a number of these close calls.
Just like GridEdge’s sodium nickel chloride battery technology Redflow’s flow battery is well suited to Australia’s varying weather conditions and doesn’t have the fire risks that lithium ion batteries do.
Victoria’s Metropolitan Fire Brigade says it may take “Years to understand’ the fire risk posed by lithium ion battery storage
The MFB said the solar installations were vulnerable to faults across their systems, including isolation switches, inverters and installed wiring, and from deteriorating components.
The alarming figures come as the solar battery storage industry pushes to kill new regulations that would force homeowners to build a separate “fire bunker” housing for battery installations.
Under draft rules released by Standards Australia, lithium ion batteries are classed as “Fire Class 1” and would not be allowed inside or within 1m of a domestic dwelling. The industry will have until August 15 to respond to the draft regulations.
The safety moves are designed to avoid a repeat of Labor’s insulation batts scheme in which the rapid rollout of roof insulation in 2009 led to more than 200 house fires across the nation, and ultimately four deaths. Continue reading “Fire risk for solar and batteries”→
It is interesting that everyone is up in arms about the battery standards being introduced into Australia but maybe people should be asking why these standards are being brought in. It is not only government and coal company lobbying.
Yes, lithium ion batteries are currently cheaper and installing them in safer locations will add cost to installing them, however there are already safer battery technologies on the market that are being pushed out of the market due to the cheap cost of lithium ion batteries.
It is easy to say there is a low probability of your lithium ion battery catching fire, (and some lithium battery technologies are safer than others), but if it is your house that burns down or someone in your house that is injured you may be taking a different view on the safety standards.
The thing that is not being addressed here is that a fire doesn’t have to start in the battery due to a fault in the battery for the battery to catch fire; it can start in the vicinity of the battery and then move to the battery. The standards are designed to help the fire brigade protect your property and their members safety by limiting the dangers caused by battery fires that can’t be put out. Continue reading “Battery Standards and Lithium battery fires”→