Wondering what to do with end-of-life solar equipment?  

SolarRecycle.org is a resource to promote sustainable disposal of end-of-life solar equipment by facilitating engagement with recycling vendors. To do this, SolarRecycle.org aggregates and centralizes information to educate the public about their options. SolarRecycle.org also recognizes that transportation costs play a major part in choosing which vendors to utilize, so they have included an interactive map for the user to quickly see what companies may be a good fit based on geography. Their long-term intent is to eventually tackle some of the other waste management challenges of the industry, as well as track current state and federal policy related to solar equipment recycling and waste classification.

This information will become even more important as this sector of the industry experiences rapid change in the coming years. Clink on the image below for more information.  There are several Arizona resources listed.

SolarRecyle org

City of Phoenix Residential Photovoltaic Roof Access-2021

The City of Phoenix has continued dialog with the solar industry and other stakeholders to enact some solar code changes that generally increase the area of residential one- and two- family dwelling roof areas that can be utilized for photovoltaic arrays.  This has been done by reducing the required pathways for fire access.  The major changes are:

Pathways to ridge. Not fewer than two 36 inch- wide (914 mm) pathways on separate roof planes, from lowest roof edge to ridge, shall be provided on all buildings. Not fewer than one pathway shall be provided on the street or driveway side of the roof. For each roof plane with a photovoltaic array, not fewer than one 36-inch- wide (914 mm) pathway from lowest roof edge to ridge shall be provided on the same roof plane as the photovoltaic array, on an adjacent roof plane or straddling the same and adjacent roof planes.

Setbacks at ridge. For photovoltaic arrays occupying 33 percent or less of the plan view total roof area, a setback of not less than 18 inches (457 mm) wide is required on both sides of a horizontal ridge. For photovoltaic arrays occupying more than 33 percent of the plan view total roof area, a setback of not less than 36 inches (457 mm) wide is required on both sides of a horizontal ridge.

Alternative setbacks at ridge. Where an automatic sprinkler system is installed within the dwelling in accordance with Section 903.3.1.3, setbacks at the ridge shall conform to one of the following:

    1. For photovoltaic arrays occupying 66 percent or less of the plan view total roof area, a setback of not less than 18 inches (457 mm) wide is required on both sides of a horizontal ridge.

    2.For photovoltaic arrays occupying more than 66 percent of the plan view total roof area, a setback of not less than 36 inches (914 mm) wide is required on both sides of a horizontal ridge.

For more information see: Phoenix Fire Code Changes 7-3-2021

Update- Utility Solar Battery Fire in Arizona

Update July 30, 2020

LG Chem Ltd, the manufacturer of the battery cells, disputes some of the findings in the APS Final report. prepared by DNV-GL.  LG Chem retained independent experts to Investigate the cause of the failure- experts who directly participated In the many site visits and direct analysis of the evidence. In fact, the Independent experts retained by LG Chem believe that the evidence rules out DNV-GL's theory regarding the cause of the initial thermal runaway event. However, DNV-GL ignored other experts' views and key evidence without any explanation. So to provide a more complete record, LG Chem is submitting to the ACC a report prepared by Exponent, a recognized expert in the relevant subject matter. See the LG Chem Ltd report to the Arizona Corporation Commission

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


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