000

Update- Utility Solar Battery Fire in Arizona

Update July 18, 2020

APS has posted a Final report on the McMicken Battery Energy Storage System Event Technical Analysis and Recommendations. This is a very detailed report, worth a study by those who have a need for safe energy storage.  Much of the technical information also applies to batterpes used in electric vehicles and other smaller applications.

The factual conclusions reached in this investigation are as follows:

  • The suspected fire was actually an extensive cascading thermal runaway event, initiated by an internal cell failure within one battery cell in the BESS: cell pair 7, module 2, rack 15 (battery 7-2).
  • It is believed to a reasonable degree of scientific certainty that this internal failure was caused by an internal cell defect, specifically abnormal Lithium metal deposition and dendritic growth within the cell.
  • The total flooding clean agent fire suppression system installed in the BESS operated early in the incident and in accordance with its design. However, clean agent fire suppression systems are designed to extinguish incipient fires in ordinary combustibles. Such systems are not capable of preventing or stopping cascading thermal runaway in a BESS.
  • As a result, thermal runaway cascaded and propagated from cell 7-2 through every cell and module in Rack 15, via heat transfer. This propagation was facilitated by the absence of adequate thermal barrier protections between battery cells, which may have stopped or slowed the propagation of thermal runaway.
  • The uncontrolled cascading of thermal runaway from cell-to-cell and then module-to-module in Rack 15 led to the production of a large quantity of flammable gases within the BESS. Analysis and modeling from experts in this investigation confirmed that these gases were sufficient to create a flammable atmosphere within the BESS container.
  • Approximately three hours after thermal runaway began, the BESS door was opened by firefighters, agitating the remaining flammable gases, and allowing the gases to make contact with a heat source or spark.

There were five main contributing factors that led to the explosion:

  • Contributing Factor #1: Internal failure in a battery cell initiated thermal runaway
  • Contributing Factor #2: The fire suppression system was incapable of stopping thermal runaway
  • Contributing Factor #3: Lack of thermal barriers between cells led to cascading thermal runaway
  • Contributing Factor #4: Flammable off-gases concentrated without a means to ventilate
  • Contributing Factor #5: Emergency response plan did not have an extinguishing, ventilation, and entry procedure

The full report is available on the APS website: https://www.aps.com/-/media/APS/APSCOM-PDFs/About/Our-Company/Newsroom/McMickenFinalTechnicalReport.ashx?la=en

Original Article

The Fire Department was called about 6 p.m. Friday (4/19/19) about smoke rising from the APS McMicken Energy Storage site. The responding firefighters were evaluating the lithium battery when there was an explosion that left the firefighters with serious chemical and chemical-inhalation burns. One of the firefighters was in critical condition at the Maricopa Medical Center's burn unit in Phoenix and in surgery until 1 a.m. before becoming stable.

This incident illustrates that utility scale battery systems can be very dangerous. Further information is not available as of the posting of this article. As more information becomes available, the Solar Center will provide updated coverage.

 The battery system is one of two identical battery systems installed in late 2016 and became operational in early 2017.

There is a good article on these battery systems on the  APS website at On Edge of Phoenix, APS Tests the Relationship of Solar and Batteries

The McMicken unit is contained at the head of the feeder in an existing substation.

Note, these are smaller, earlier batteries that those described in our earlier APS battery article: APS announces 'Solar after Sunset" battery storage inititative

Recent APS presentation slide on these systems, still no further incident details.

Still no report as of 7/5/20

APS EPRI SPP

Many others have taken note of this fire such as Littleton (NH) fire chief raises concerns about battery energy-storage facility

TEP PV Saturation Maps

TEP customers intending to install a new PV system now need to check that their system can be safely installed and connected to TEP’s grid.

TEP now has service areas that are saturated with PV systems where new PV systems are subject to additional review and requirements under Arizona’s Distributed Generation Interconnection Rules. TEP has prepared DG Saturation Maps showing these areas.

This further described at https://www.tep.com/get-started-with-solar/

This requirement stems from the recent Distributed Generation Interconnection Rules issued by the Arizona Corporation Commission.

Further information is available at:Interconnection of Distributed Generation Facilities

Update: See the related article on tucson.com: New state rules limit rooftop solar systems in some Tucson neighborhoods

Tucson Electric Power (TEP) to provide 70% of its energy from solar and wind by 2035

Tucson Electric Power (TEP) plans to provide more than 70 percent of its power from wind and solar resources as part of a cleaner energy portfolio that will reduce carbon emissions 80 percent by 2035.

TEP has filed its integrated resource plan (IRP) with the Arizona Corporation Commission, outlining plans for 2.5GW of new solar and wind over the next 15 years and 1.4GW of energy storage capacity as it progressively shutters its coal power stations.

See the TEP Press Release for more information: https://www.tep.com/news/tep-plans-clean-energy-expansion-carbon-reduction/