Battery consultant Graeme Warnell has received recognition by the UK’s Association of Petroleum and Explosives Administration (APEA) for his work in electric vehicle (EV) infrastructure risk assessment.
He won in the Innovation category and was finalist in the Environmental Protection & Sustainability category. His company Ev-Exbox carries out risk assessments on lithium battery energy storage systems (LiBESS), including for local authorities and communities, and systems linked to solar farms.
“What I am seeing is there is very often little regard for where the LiBess system goes and normally, for convenience, it can be situated very close to residential housing when the solar farm itself covers a huge area,” he told BEST.
He singled out North Lincolnshire council for its proactive approach in engaging local fire and rescue services during the installation of two large solar farms.
Local communities often have a “fear of the unknown”, which a more open and engaging approach would address, he said. One of the main safety concerns is over the risk of thermal runaway in lithium-ion batteries.
One of the most concerning toxins released during lithium-ion battery fires is hydrogen fluoride, a highly toxic gas that can cause severe respiratory damage if inhaled. It can form a highly corrosive acid that can damage lung tissue and cause respiratory distress, he said.
Hydrogen cyanide is another toxic gas that can be released during lithium-ion battery fires, and can cause dizziness, nausea and even death in high concentrations. Firewater runoff from lithium-ion battery fires can also contain heavy metals such as cobalt and nickel, and other toxic chemicals. They can contaminate soil and groundwater.
His advice on installing large-scale LiBESS is to include:
- fire suppression
- thermal monitoring
- battery management
- physical separation from residential housing
- proper ventilation
- an emergency response plan
- environmental containment to prevent the release of hazardous materials.
He said: “If designers do not take adequate measures to prevent harm to the public and the environment, they could be held legally responsible for any damages or injuries that result from their negligence.”