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The Safety Question Persists as Energy Storage Prepares for Huge Growth

The Safety Question Persists as Energy Storage Prepares for Huge Growth

The safety of energy storage systems is under scrutiny after firefighters were injured in an Arizona battery plant explosion in April, and it emerged that at least 23 South Korean plants caught fire in a series of incidents dating back to August power battery

For now, many experts continue to stand behind energy storage's track record on safety in the context of the broader power market.

When testing energy storage technologies, safety is not viewed as part of a hierarchy of requirements, but is “a simple pass-fail,” said David Kane, technology development manager at the energy company Centrica in the U.K.

“If we cannot be satisfied that the system is safe, then we just can’t pass go,” he said. “That doesn’t just apply to the final product design. It applies to the installation, the service, the decommissioning [and] the various steps in the supply chain.”

Arizona Public Service (APS) still has not revealed the cause of a blast that the Associated Press last month claimed had “sent eight firefighters and a police officer to the hospital.”However, as previously noted by GTM, the utility has one of the most aggressive energy storage adoption strategies in the U.S., with plans to install roughly a gigawatt of battery capacity by 2025.

Pressures associated with a hasty build-out of battery capacity appear to have been the cause of numerous lithium-ion facility fires in South Korea.

Last month, S&P Global reported that a five-month investigation into the blazes had put the blame on faulty installations and poor operating procedures rather than the batteries themselves.

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