Guest essay by Eric Worrall
h/t observa; Given the rate just a handful of present day grid scale batteries seem to suffer meltdowns or spontaneously explode, imagine the fun we’ll all have in the future, when grid scale battery storage is scaled up.
The world’s largest lithium ion battery is down, again
The Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility Phase II set off fire alarms that activated a fault water suppression system, which – again – set off a cascading set of events that resulted in roughly ten battery packs melting down.
FEBRUARY 16, 2022 JOHN FITZGERALD WEAVER
Sunday night, February 13th, the Vistra Energy Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility Phase II set off fire alarms just after 8 p.m. Pacific Standard Time. Upon arrival, the local fire department found roughly ten battery racks that were completely melted. The fire department representatives said that the fire was extinguished.
Vistra has suggested that the event might be a similar event to the September incident that took down Phase I of the facility. According to a statement from Vistra, that incident involved a cascading series of events which may have started with the failure of a ball bearing in a fan.
The suspected bearing failure is presumed to have set off the very early smoke detection apparatus (VESDA), which in turn armed the heat suppression system. Vistra stated that due to ‘failures of a small number of couplings on flexible hoses and pipes’, water sprayed directly onto additional battery racks, causing short circuiting and arcing, which damaged the batteries and made more smoke. The additional smoke set off more alarms and caused even more water to spray from the failed couplings.
…Read more: https://pv-magazine-usa.com/2022/02/16/the-worlds-largest-lithium-ion-battery-is-down-again/
At least the fire suppression system seemed to work this time, unlike the big Geelong fire last year, though spraying water on high amperage live battery terminals suggests the suppression system needs a little work.
Halon or CO2 might be better choices, at least they don’t conduct electricity. But Lithium is awfully reactive, so gas suppression systems might not have the right chemistry for dousing a fire involving Lithium compounds.
In any case I don’t like gas fire suppression systems. I’ve experienced the terror of being accidentally locked inside a server room with a Halon fire suppression system, and no way to open the door until someone noticed my predicament, so its fair to say I’m a little prejudiced against fire suppression systems which kill people. There was a solitary dusty respirator hanging inside an emergency box with a broken latch. My guess is the respirator wouldn’t have done much for me in an emergency.
With California and Britain committing to grid scale battery storage in a big way, and other nations at least toying with the idea, I suspect coming years will provide plenty more opportunities for me to write about newsworthy battery events.
Update (EW): A few people have suggested Halon wouldn’t do much, because batteries have their own oxidiser. Halon does not deny oxygen to fires, it changes the chemistry of the fire. Having said that, there is still a good chance it would be completely useless.
How does Halon work?
Contrary to popular belief, Halon does not remove oxygen from the air, but rather reacts with all elements of a fire. When Halon is discharged, it breaks the chemical chain reaction. This accounts for most of its fire fighting properties. The other properties come from the cooling effect of the expanding gas. Because of this, Halon can be safely used in an occupied space.
…Read more: https://www.agas.com/us/resources/faqs-fire-protection/