The US Navy & Department of Defense recently announced storage investments totalling $100m as utilities begin relying on the military to bail them out in times of crisis
Alsym CEO: Recent fires show 'even lower energy lithium batteries pose risks'
Recent battery storage fires in Warwick, New York show that even lower-energy lithium iron phosphate batteries can catch fire and threaten the health and safety of people living and working nearby, the CEO of a company that manufactures lithium-free batteries has said.
Mukesh Chatter, CEO of Alsym Energy, said the two fires at Convergent Energy battery storage facilities, one of which is located on a public school campus, while not leading to any injuries, were “indicative of several critical issues facing the energy storage sector”.
He added: “Even though battery companies claim that the lower-energy lithium iron phosphate batteries used in both installations are safer than higher energy options, these incidents show that they can still catch fire and threaten the health and safety of people living and working nearby. A flammable battery technology, combined with insufficient first responder training and a puzzling choice of site, could have been a recipe for disaster.”
On the evening of 26 June, fire alarms went off at two of the battery storage systems Convergent owns and operates in Warwick, New York. Convergent said the fire suppression units within the affected battery containers at both sites were activated.
Following the fire, Convergent issued a statement that said one of the alarms went off after a Powin battery storage system used at one of the sites caught fire, adding that the Powin system at the other site was also “experiencing problems”.
Convergent said it was not using Powin systems at any of its other sites.
“While Convergent is responsible for developing and operating these two sites, we rely on partners to manufacture and install the battery storage systems, Convergent’s statement continued. “In this case, Powin provided the battery storage systems. We are now working in a support role with Powin’s team as they assess the source of the problem and coordinate a response.”
In the aftermath of the fire, Chatter said municipalities should “take more time to evaluate safety protocols specific to lithium-ion storage systems” and that communities should also reevaluate permitting requirements to prevent lithium-ion storage facilities from being sited near schools, parks, and other places where large numbers of people congregate.
Chatter added that he was concerned that local fire crews had received “minimal training” on lithium-ion battery systems and urged “local leaders” take time to learn about newer non-flammable, non-lithium storage options.
Chatter’s company Alsym Energy has developed rechargeable battery chemistry, which it says is free of lithium and cobalt, and “ideal for applications such as stationary storage, maritime shipping, and electric vehicles”.