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PNNL develops system to prevent lithium-ion ESS fires before they start

Tue, 05/25/2021 - 10:54 -- paul Crompton

A team from the U.S. Department of Energy’s Pacific Northwest National Laboratory has developed a sensor system that can prevent dangerous conditions developing in outdoor lithium-ion battery cabinets. 

Supported by DOE’s Office of Electricity, IntelliVent automatically opens cabinet doors to prevent buildup of flammable gases if it detects smoke, heat, or gas.

The system can be retrofitted into cabinet-style battery enclosures, such as those used in stationary grid energy storage applications. 

Due to limitations of the product standard, the system is not designed to NFPA-69 (Standard on Explosion Prevention Systems). 

Intellivent, which is available for nonexclusive licensing, was designed to work with a variety of sensors.

A 15-month investigation in the US found that dendritic growth had caused cascading thermal runaway, which in turn caused an explosion at a lithium-ion battery storage facility operated by the Arizona Public Service (APS) utility.

The explosion in Surprise, Arizona, on 19 April, 2019, seriously injured four fire fighters. 

Contributing factors into the explosion included no ventilation for flammable ‘off-gasses’.

Bobby Ruiz, the fire chief in Peoria, Arizona, whose firefighters were injured in the explosion, said: "This is absolutely in the right direction. Getting all doors open early before gas buildup will make the incident safer. 

“It will also increase situational awareness by being able to see if the batteries are smoking or are on fire. And, if extinguishment is needed, we can direct the water right at the modules from a safe distance." 

The Snohomish County Public Utility District’s new Arlington Microgrid and Clean Energy Center, in Everett, Washington, will be the first to install the safety technology when it retrofits a 1.2 MW battery with the IntelliVent system.

Image: First caption for “IntelliVent” image: (but feel free to edit and/or just simply give credit to PNNL or Allan Tuan/PNNL) 

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