Fire at Tesla Big Battery in Victoria Puts The Spotlight On Risks

Highlights :

  • With large storage in focus worldwide for its role, the battery fire in Australia will put the focus back on safety .
  • Though overall, the risks remain small of major damage, the fact that these batteries are set to play such a vital role in overall grid balancing, means special efforts to understand more fool proof security and safety.

A major fire broke out at Tesla’s 300 MW (450 Mwh) big battery, called the Victoria Big Battery, in Australia’s Victoria state. Starting on Friday, the fire was eventually controlled only today, after a three day struggle. The fire apparently started after initial testing was started to sync the battery with the grid.

Fire fighters were hamstrung by the fact that the 13 tonne battery megapack couldn’t be doused using water or other suppression methods. Lithium ion batteries are highly combustible if a fire does happen, and the option firefighters took in this case was to allow the battery to burn itself out and subside on its own. While trying to protect the rest of the megapacks or units.

As a matter of precaution, some firefighters and fire trucks would be staying back at the site for a further 24 hours to observe and ensure there is no further escalation. The plan is to take thermal readings every two hours.

The battery was due to start this summer in Australia, and was held up as a great sign of the future of energy storage and its role in managing grids that are ever more dependent on renewable energy. The developer, french firm Neoen will be joining Tesla and the Victorian government to identify the reasons behind the fire.

At this stage they have not mentioned possible delays caused by the fire to the start of the project.

The fire casts shadow on the many other big battery projects launched in Australia and elsewhere, and will of course also put the spotlight on the quality of expertise available locally in the event of a similar such accident.

After the fire started, the Victorian government’s environment monitoring agency had also issued a toxic smoke warning after the fire broken out. Residents had been warned to move indoors, close doors and windows, vents flues and bring pets inside. The AEMO (Australian Energy Market Operator) had also confirmed that the battery was taken off the grid very soon.

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Prasanna Singh

Prasanna has been a media professional for over 20 years. He is the Group Editor of Saur Energy International

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