Energy storage is playing a vital role in accelerating the adoption of renewable energy and providing beneficial grid and community resilience. As we scale up deployments of solar and wind energy generation, we will need increasing amounts of batteries alongside in order to truly unleash clean, low-cost energy.
Adoption of battery storage systems has been slower than renewable generation for a few reasons, one being concerns of fire safety. An unfortunate narrative surrounding battery storage is its propensity to catch fire. While some batteries have earned a bad reputation it is important to not only distinguish why certain batteries are prone to fires but also recognize that not all batteries share this trait.
For battery storage manufacturers like Blue Planet Energy, ensuring battery storage systems are built on a foundation of safety is paramount. For installers, there is peace of mind when working with batteries proven to reduce or eliminate fire risks.
The Basics of Battery Safety
When creating a battery energy storage system, there are two main safety goals:
1. Prevent the battery from being the source of danger by adhering to Codes and Standards. This will minimize or ideally prevent the battery from being hazardous.
2. Ensure the battery does not increase hazards during a fire. Should a problem occur, a properly manufactured battery should not increase the hazards, specifically during a fire. Knowing what happens to a battery when subjected to fire or other damage is why many batteries undergo UL 9540 A testing.
Thermal Runaway: The Primary Energy Storage System Hazard
“Hazard” can refer to various problems. For instance, an internal defect could cause dendrites to form inside the battery, or there could be a more physical, mechanical issue, like dropping the battery during shipping or collision from a car pulling into a garage. However, the most common hazard, and what all other issues typically point back to, is thermal runaway.
Thermal runaway begins when self-generated heat within a battery occurs faster than it can be dissipated. This heat produces off-gases, which propagate to the surrounding cells and surrounding enclosure, and then to the whole system causing a vaporized electrolyte fire and/or explosion.
Characteristics of a Safe Energy Storage System
Three main areas contribute to safety for any energy storage battery system:
1. Chemistry and Design
The chemistry and design of both battery and the system as a whole dictates what can trigger failures within a system and the kind of reaction that will occur if the battery succumbs to any damage or hazard.
The quality of materials used, additives, voltage inconsistencies within a pack, and defects like dings or other imperfections can all add up and cause safety issues.
3. Install, Operation, and Maintenance
When it crosses over from manufacturer to installer, having knowledgeable installers is critical in ensuring the systems are installed in the way they were designed. Batteries can become more prone to failure as they age, so maintaining proper operations and number of cycles is also important.
The Blue Planet Energy Advantage
Built with lithium iron phosphate (LFP), the safest, most environmentally benign battery chemistry on the market, Blue Planet Energy’s battery storage systems are listed to the UL 9540 standard and designed with safety in mind.
Most lithium chemistries, like NMC (lithium nickel manganese cobalt oxide), are unfortunately not known for sound structure stability. As soon as these batteries get overcharged or overheated, oxygen starts being liberated, which can then catch fire. With Blue Planet Energy, the phosphate and the oxygen are tightly bound so as not to liberate oxygen, so even if the battery becomes hot, no flames or fires are produced.
Blue Planet Energy’s batteries, with superior cell design, also come equipped with an Emergency Pressure Release System that automatically releases when the system gets too hot to avoid any built up pressure from bursting. Additional safety features of the Blue Planet Energy battery enclosure include:
- Removable service entrance with top access: isolates low voltage, battery management system and site controller from high voltage battery bus
- Disconnect switch: externally accessible for emergency safety
- Integrated software for site controls: accessible via the internet or on the enclosure
- Lock and key cam latch: for secure access only
In addition to a manufacturing focus on quality and safety, Blue Planet Energy also provides training for installer-partners on handling, installing and caring of the battery systems. This ensures the safest and highest value is delivered to end customers.