ENERGY STORAGE

Battery storage fires ‘can cost developers up to $2m’, says Firetrace International

January 24, 2024

Battery storage fire incidents can cost developers, owners or operators up to $2 million as a result of the catastrophic loss of an asset and loss of revenue from up to 18 months’ worth of downtime, according to fire suppression system supplier Firetrace International.

Firetrace said another cost battery owner operators have to deal with is the expense incurred due to false activations, which, the company claimed, is an increasing issue in the sector. False activation costs can reach as high as $900,000 when clean-up expenses and resulting downtime is taken into account, Firetrace said.

Firetrace, which has developed a system that it says “works in tandem with water deluge systems, aiming to suppress fires before they spread within an asset”, warned that the type of power conversion equipment used in battery energy storage assets had led to fires breaking out at wind and solar projects.

Brian Cashion, engineering manager at Firetrace International, explained: “Current fire suppression systems are primarily focused on lithium-ion batteries. Having worked in the renewable energy sector for 14 years and installed our technology on over 15,000 assets to date, we have seen the same power conversion equipment used in BESS assets, causing fires in wind and solar assets. In response, we have worked with our partners in the sector to bring a bespoke BESS solution to the market that responds to its specific needs.”

Cashion added: “More fire incidents could drive public opposition to BESS projects further, hampering the entire industry. In tandem with our solution, the industry must also foster collaborative efforts to establish and uphold safety standards. Developers should engage and establish communication channels with local authorities, fire, and rescue services.”

A report published last September by Firetrace International warned that there was a real danger that public opposition to energy storage could grow significantly as a result of fire risk fears, threatening critical battery deployment and, as a result, net zero goals.

A database maintained by the California-headquartered Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) reveals that, from 21 September 2011 to 27 July 2023, there were a total of 63 “utility and commercial & industrial-scale energy storage failure events”, with most of the incidents occurring in South Korea and the US.