The use of rechargeable Lithium-Ion (Li-Ion) batteries continues to grow in electronic products, automobiles (EV) and energy storage systems (ESS). This is due to their high energy density and decreasing cost.
A battery ESS can use large numbers of Li-Ion batteries assembled together which are capable of storing energy in order to supply electrical energy at a future time. Today, ESS are the primary infrastructure for wind turbine farms, solar farms, and peak shaving facilities. They can also be found in commercial, industrial, and residential (i.e., apartment) buildings. Such installations can be located in dedicated outside buildings, enclosures (i.e., shipping container), interior & exterior cut-off rooms, rooftops, and open parking garages.
The hazards associated with ESS using Li-Ion batteries include fire and explosion, chemical, electrical, stored energy and physical. There have been many ESS fires/explosions worldwide during the past 5 years. One of the most notable was in Surprise, AZ1 in 2019. A fire occurred inside an ESS enclosure and when the door of the enclosure was opened, an explosion occurred.
The primary causes of Li-Ion battery fires include short-circuiting, overcharging and electrolyte breakdown. Short-circuiting and overcharging can lead to a thermal runaway condition in which the cell’s heat generation is at a higher rate than can dissipate, potentially leading to off-gassing, fire or explosion. The early detection of a thermal runaway condition is critical.
Major codes/standards which address Li-Ion battery ESS include FM Global, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) Underwriters Laboratory (UL) and International Fire Code (IFC).
The following is a brief summary of the significant construction, occupancy, protection and exposure (COPE) requirements for Li-Ion battery ESS systems. The referenced documents provide complete information.
The superior operating performance of Li-Ion battery ESS will continue to result in further deployment of these types of systems worldwide. The hazards of these systems are fairly well understood, and the various codes/standards provide risk mitigation recommendations (i.e., COPE). Refinement of these codes/standards continues as more is learned, particularly in the area of the explosion hazard. Contact Risk Logic for a review of your ESS or planned installation to help provide adequate protection of your facility.
- Roman, J., Learning from Surprise, NFPA Journal, July 2021; NFPA Journal – ESS Guidance Needed, Fall 2021
- FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheet 5-33, Electrical Energy Storage Systems, FM Global, Norwood, MA, July 2020
- FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheet 1-20, Protection Against Exterior Fire Exposure, FM Global, Norwood, MA, July 2016
- FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheet 1-44, Damage-Limiting Construction, FM Global, Norwood, MA, April 2012
- NFPA 855, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2020 edition
- NFPA 69, Standard on Explosion Prevention Systems, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2019 edition
- NFPA 68, Standard on Explosion Protection by Deflagration Venting, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2018 edition
- UL 9540A, Battery Energy Storage System (ESS) Test Method, Underwriters Laboratories, Northbrook, IL., 2020 Edition
- FM Global Property Loss Prevention Data Sheet 5-48, Automatic Fire Detection, FM Global, Norwood, MA, January 2011
- NFPA 72, National Fire Alarm and Signaling Code, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2019 edition
- NFPA 1, Chapter 52, Energy Storage Systems, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2018 edition
- International Fire Code (IFC) Section 1206, Electrical Energy Storage Systems, International Code Council, Falls Church, VA, 2021 edition
- NFPA 70, Article 706, Energy Storage Systems, National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, MA, 2020 edition
- UL 9540, Energy Storage Systems and Equipment, Underwriters Laboratories, Northbrook, IL, 2020 edition
- McKinnon, M. B., DeCrane, S., and Kerber, S., “Four Firefighters Injured In Lithium-Ion Battery Energy Storage System Explosion – Arizona,” UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute, July 2020
- Swart, J., White, K., and Cundy, M., “APS McMicken Progress Report,” Exponent, July 2020