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Lithium-ion Battery Energy Storage System and Fire Risk

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  • Lithium-ion battery storage systems carry the potential for a type of fire called a “thermal runaway”.  A thermal runaway fire can occur by failure of just one battery cell.  The heat builds and the failure of even one lithium cell can cascade to include hundreds of individual cells.  

  • A lithium-ion thermal runaway fire is different from a “conventional fire”, in that it does not need oxygen to burn, and there is no current way of extinguishing a lithium-ion thermal runaway fire.  This type of fire has to burn itself out, and depending on the magnitude, can take weeks. It can also appear to be out, but then reignite later.  
     

  • This type of fire also creates toxic gases.
     

  • There are more and more lithium-ion battery storage systems being implemented to store excess electricity, however, there are also more thermal runaway fires developing from these storage systems, in the US and globally. 

This facility would be the 2nd Largest Solar Facility with a Lithium ion Battery Energy Storage System in New Mexico!

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Beyond the initial reaction, fires in these BESS units are known for being long-duration events with the potential for re-ignition, which makes managing these incidents particularly challenging.  Current codes and standards are just beginning to address the applicable requirements for these systems, so the design guidance is limited and leads to relying upon engineering judgement.

Did You Know?

Li-ion batteries are prone to overheating, swelling, electrolyte leakage venting, fires, smoke, and explosions in worst-case scenarios involving thermal runaway.
Click here for related article on a fire at a Tesla Factory 

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Per the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), Lithium-ion batteries pose unique challenges with respect to fire safety, namely for their potential to go into thermal runaway. Thermal runaway leads to steep increases in temperature and pressure within the cells which result in a release of flammable gases or high intensity fires. 

Support New Mexico in transitioning to clean energy, while avoiding unnecessary risks to our communities and further destruction to our environment.  

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