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Energy Storage System (ESS)

Thermal runaway root cause of Tesla megapack fires that shut down Australian ESS

Mon, 10/04/2021 - 09:29 -- paul Crompton

Thermal runaway in a Tesla megapack was the likely cause of a three-day fire that halted testing at Neoen’s 300MW/450MWh energy storage system (ESS) in Australia.

The fire at French firm Neoen’s Victorian Big Battery project occurred during initial testing of the ESS on 30 July and caused the system to be temporarily disconnected from the grid.

Two Megapacks (each being a shipping container-sized battery unit) were completely consumed by the fire. 

Neoen International SAS and its contractors UGL Engineering and Tesla Motors Australia), who respectively own and operate the site, have worked with safety regulator Energy Safe Victoria (ESV) throughout its investigation. 

Tesla’s engineering investigation and recreation of events found the most likely cause of the fire was a leak within the megapack cooling system, which caused a short circuit that led to a fire in an electronic component. 

This resulted in heating that led to a thermal runaway and fire in an adjacent battery compartment within one megapack, which spread to an adjacent second megapack. 

The findings were informed by testing undertaken by Tesla, examination of the scene by ESV (and other Victorian agencies), video surveillance footage and telemetry data from the original incident. 

A number of other factors contributed to the destruction of the entire megapacks and, had they not been present, the initial fault would likely have been identified and either manually or automatically contained, said Neoen. 

Those factors are: 

  • The supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) system for a megapack took 24 hours to ‘map’ to the control system and provide full data functionality and oversight to operators. 
  • The megapack that caught fire had been in service for 13 hours before being switched into an off-line mode when it was no longer required as part of the commissioning process. This prevented the receipt of alarms at the control facility. 
  • A key lock was operated correctly to switch the megapack to off-line service mode (which was no longer required for ongoing commissioning) but this caused:  telemetry systems for monitoring the condition of the (now out of service) Megapack to shut down and so remove visibility of the developing event; the battery cooling system to shut down; the battery protection system to shut down, including the high voltage controller (HVC) that could have operated a pyrotechnic fuse to disconnect the faulty battery unit.

ESV requires Tesla to provide the final results of its investigation (when available) into why the fire resulted in the loss of a second megapack and what it is to do to prevent that circumstance arising again. 

Having completed its technical review, ESV will now determine if there have been any breaches of the Electricity Safety Act 1998 (Vic) and supporting regulations and, if so, whether enforcement action is warranted.

Back on line

Neoen confirmed re-energisation testing of the Victorian Big Battery would recommence on 29 September, in preparation for operations this Australian summer. 

Neoen and Tesla are continuing to work towards delivering the project in time for the Australian summer. 

The Victorian Big Battery will unlock up to 250MW of additional peak capacity on the existing Victoria/New South Wales Interconnector (VNI) over the next decade, playing a key role in the transition of the electricity sector towards lower emissions. 

ESV has advised Tesla that it has no objection to the recommencing of commissioning at the VBB providing a number of measures were installed.

The actions to prevent a recurrence of this incident are: 

  • Each Megapack cooling system is to be fully functionally and pressure tested when installed on site and before it is put into service 
  • Each Megapack cooling system in its entirety is to be physically inspected for leaks after it has been functionally and pressure tested on site 
  • The SCADA system has been modified such that it now ‘maps’ in one hour and this is to be verified before power flow is enabled to ensure real-time data is available to operators 
  • A new ‘battery module isolation loss’ alarm has been added to the firmware; this modification also automatically removes the battery module from service until the alarm is investigated 
  • Changes have been made to the procedure for the usage of the key lock for megapacks during commissioning and operation to ensure the telemetry system is operational 
  • The high voltage controller (HVC) that operates the pyrotechnic fuse remains in service when the key lock is isolated 

Designers are also working to ensure that megapacks are engineered to fully mitigate the risk of fire propagation from one unit to another under Victorian climatic conditions, with proposed mitigation procedures to be rolled out to applicable megapacks globally.

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LG Chem’s lithium-ion batteries at centre of latest fire at 300MW ESS

Mon, 09/13/2021 - 15:10 -- paul Crompton

Preliminary assessment of a fault that caused Vistra’s flagship 300MW/1.2GWh energy storage system (ESS) to overheat and go offline has begun in the US state of California.

Phase I of the Texas, US, firm’s Moss Landing Energy Storage facility was forced out of service following an “overheating incident” that affected a number of battery modules around 8pm on 4 September.

The system is made up of more than 4,500 stacked battery racks or cabinets, each containing 22 individual battery modules manufactured by LG Energy Solutions.

Vistra said that it was taking a conservative approach and keeping the entire facility offline as it investigates the root cause of the incident in partnership with its engineering contractor Fluence, and battery manufacturer LG Energy Solution. 

California news outlet Kion 5/46 quoted North County Fire District fire chief Joel Mendoza as saying the battery racks had been "scorched" and wires "melted."

He was reported as saying: "We didn’t see any fire when we came in. What we saw was a lot of smoke. The battery modules are actually encased in plastic. So in the event of overheating, you’re gonna see a lot of smoke."

Safety systems detected the faulty modules were operating at a temperature above operational standards and triggered sprinkler systems targeted at the affected modules. 

The operational status of the assets of Phase II (100MW), which is located in a separate stand-alone building, remains operational. Phase II was completed last month and brought the facility's total capacity to 400MW/1.6GWh— the largest of its kind in the world.

Battery fire investigation

Teams from Vistra, LG Energy Solution, Fluence, and other external experts are in the early stages of the investigation into the root cause of the issue.

The teams expect that it will take “some time” to fully assess the extent of the damage before developing a plan to safely repair and return the battery system to operation. 

The North County Fire Protection District of Monterey County is assisting with the investigation.

A statement by Vistra on 5 September read: “The Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility experienced an overheating issue with a limited number of battery modules in its Phase I 300-megawatt/1200-megawatt hour system. 

“There are multiple layers of safety integrated into the battery facility and the risk mitigation and safety systems worked as designed, detecting these modules were operating at a temperature above operational standards and triggering targeted sprinkler systems aimed at the affected modules. 

“As a result, the overheating was controlled and contained without the need for outside assistance. However, consistent with Vistra’s incident response planning and out of an abundance of caution, the Moss Landing team did ask the local fire department, North County Fire Protection District of Monterey County, to respond to the site. 

“Importantly, there were no injuries to the facilities’ workers as a result of the incident and the situation is contained to the facility with no harm to the community.”

Vistra is uncertain on the timing of the return of the facility, pending an investigation and any needed repairs. 

The company will update the status of Phase I Moss Landing as it learns more. 

LC Chem battery woes

It has been an interesting year for LG Energy Solutions, the subsidiary of the Korean battery giant LG Chem.

Earlier this month, a billion dollar recall of GM’s electric vehicles was made after a torn anode tab and a folded separator were found on cells. LG packs the cells into the modules, then into a battery pack battery at LG Energy Solution Michigan facility in Holland, Michigan, US.

In August, LG Energy Solution extended its scheme to replace lithium-ion batteries used in its home energy storage systems (ESS) to include all geographical markets.

ESSs manufactured between April 2017 and September 2018 are being recalled due to overheating concerns.

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Tesla’s lithium-ion megapack causes three-day fire during test at Australian 300MW ESS

Mon, 08/09/2021 - 16:25 -- paul Crompton

A fire that spread across two Tesla lithium-ion battery packs at Neoen’s 300MW/450MWh energy storage system (ESS) in Australia took three days to extinguish.

French firm Neoen, which owns and operates the Victorian Big Battery project, said a fire occurred within one of the Tesla megapacks and spread to another during initial testing of the ESS on 30 July.

The system was disconnected from the grid and there was “no impact to the electricity supply", said Neoen managing director Louis de Sambucy in a statement.

Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) crews wore breathing apparatus as they worked to contain the fire within the 13 tonne lithium-ion battery— which is housed in a shipping container—and stop it spreading to nearby batteries.

A FRV HAZMAT appliance conducted atmospheric monitoring with a Scientific Officer in support. 

A Neoen statement read: “Investigation preparations are underway and physical inspections will commence once the CFA [Victorian County Fire Authority] have completed their procedures.

“Testing will resume only once Neoen can be ensured that all security conditions are met.”

The Victorian Country Fire Authority, Energy Safe Victoria and WorkSafe Victoria are set to work with Neoen and Tesla on a “full and comprehensive” investigation of the fire.

The FRV statement did not give the cause of the fire.

The project to modernise the grid and unlock capacity within the existing Victorian electricity network will be delivered by Neoen, Tesla, and network partner AusNet Services.

The project is due to start operating this December.

Tesla’s 3MW megapacks are pre-assembled and pre-tested in one enclosure — including battery modules, bi-directional inverters, a thermal management system, an AC main breaker and controls.

Tesla had not replied to BEST’s questions at the time of publication.

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LFP to overtake NMC as dominant stationary storage chemistry by 2030

Fri, 08/21/2020 - 11:57 -- paul Crompton

Lithium-iron-phosphate (LFP) is poised to triple its market share to become the leading lithium-ion battery chemistry within the decade as demands change, especially in the energy storage system (ESS) markets.

LFP will overtake lithium-manganese-cobalt-oxide (NMC) to claim a 30% market share of the stationary storage chemistry by 2030 compared to 2015, according to new analysis from Wood Mackenzie.

While LFP will steal the show for ESS applications, the analysts believe LFP will remain popular within the Chinese EV market before breaking into the global passenger EV sector. 

The chemistry is expected to retain more than 20% of EV battery installations through 2025. 

The change will come as demand from electric vehicles (EV) and ESSs create the need to develop advanced lithium-ion batteries through improvements in battery cathodes, anodes and electrolytes, say the analysts.

Milan Thakore, Wood Mackenzie senior research analyst, said: “Improvements in gravimetric energy density combined with cell-to-pack technology is the key to LFP now becoming a more attractive proposition in the passenger EV space. Not only will cost and safety be a benefit, but OEMs won’t have to worry about issues surrounding the supply of cobalt and nickel.”

Changing requirements such as high recycling capabilities and high frequency will take precedence over energy density and reliability for ESS project developers— while cost and safety will continue to be important, said Mitalee Gupta, Wood Mackenzie Senior Analyst.

Gupta said: “The ESS market has heavily relied on EV batteries in the past but changing performance requirements will lead to an evolution of separate markets.

“Since 2010, the rapid rise in demand for EVs has driven down the cost of lithium-ion batteries by more than 85%. Historically, the ESS market has mostly deployed NMC batteries. In late 2018 and early 2019, demand for NMC batteries for the energy storage industry grew swiftly, outstripping the available supply.

“While there was a shortage of NMC batteries in the storage market, there were plenty of LFP batteries available - with capacity mostly in China.

“As lead times for NMC availability grew and prices remained flat, LFP vendors began tapping into NMC constrained markets at competitive prices, thus making LFP an attractive option for both power and energy applications.” 

Wood MacKenzie states EVs will continue to make the lion’s share of global lithium-ion battery demand over the next decade, while demand from portable electronics will see a significant drop from 26% in 2020 to 6% in 2030, as both EVs and ESS markets begin to take off.

New ESS projects implemented in Russia as firm eyes 50MWh goal

Thu, 05/28/2020 - 15:08 -- paul Crompton

Energy storage system (ESS) developer Russian Energy Storage Systems, a subsidiary of the Russian nano monopoly Rusnano, is planning to begin commercial production of lithium-ion systems.

The decision comes after the company successfully tested a 250kW/460kWh system connected to solar power plants operated by Rusnano’s partner Khevel in the Russian Tuva Republic.

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Lead batteries have lost the ESS battle as competition from lithium-ion grows

Thu, 03/19/2020 - 15:29 -- paul Crompton

Lead batteries no longer have a place in the energy storage system (ESS) market as lithium-ion becomes the number one choice of project developers, industry analysts Wood Mackenzie has said.

Outside of UPS applications, lead-acid has lost ground in the expanding ESS market place that topped 6GWh in 2018, say the analysts.

Xu Le, a senior analyst from Wood Mackenzie’s Singapore office, told BEST: “Lead-acid doesn’t really have a place in the ESS market in 2020, outside of UPS systems. It is not a competing technology anymore."

However, the Consortium for Battery Innovation (CBI) has refuted WoodMac’s suggestion.

The organisation’s director Dr Alistair Davidson told BEST: “Lead battery energy storage systems are excellent in the mid-range power area (1-5MW). These systems are typically used for energy storage systems for industrial and commercial applications for demand response services. 

"This market is set for the most growth. It is strategic penetration and in this application space, lead batteries have the best techno-economics relative to acquisition cost and payback period.”



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Fire association launches ESS fire safety standards in the US

Wed, 09/18/2019 - 14:54 -- paul Crompton
Fire association launch ESS fire safety standards in the US

The National Fire Protection Association in the US has published its first comprehensive collection of safety standards for energy storage system (ESS) deployment. 

The Massachusetts’-based organisation released NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems on 11 September.

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Kokam partnership secures MWs of benefit for Korea

Fri, 08/19/2016 - 12:21 -- paul Crompton
Kokam partnership secures MWs of benefit for Korea

Battery firm Kokam has secured a deal to supply a 13MW/h lithium-ion energy storage system (ESS) to aid frequency regulation to one of South Korea’s biggest utility companies.

The 36MW project will use the South Korean firm’s Ultra High Power nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) and NANO battery technology.

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Oil producer pumps cash into ESSs for offshore vessels

Thu, 11/12/2015 - 15:09 -- paul Crompton
Oil producer pumps cash into ESSs for offshore vessels

Canadian-based lithium-ion energy storage system (ESS) developer Corvus Energy has won investment from the largest oil producer on the Norwegian continental shelf.

Gas and oil producer Statoil has agreed to pump cash into Corvus, which specialises in advanced lithium-ion ESSs for maritime hybrid and fully electric propulsion systems.

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