August 28, 2019
This is the problem:
(huge numbers of them, tightly packed into these innocent-looking white containers)
What are these things designed to do?
Basically, utility-scale Battery Energy Storage Systems smooth out the delivery of electricity from solar panels to the regional grid. Think of it as getting rid of electricity “hiccups” from industrial-scale photovoltaic (PV) panel installations. (Lithium-ion batteries are also used with home and commercial building PV panels, along with cell phones, laptops, and of course electric cars.) Older solar arrays used lead-acid batteries. Li-ion are now preferred, since they are far superior at storing electricity.
In an article published in April of this year, “Large-Scale Solar Plants Require Large-Scale Battery Systems,” energy expert Willem Post explains why BESS (Battery Energy Storage Systems) are essential for large PV solar arrays. His key points are the following, all of which is quoted verbatim:
“Clouds are the main reason PV solar generation experiences intermittency (excluding the normal nighttime disappearance).”
“PV solar generation can rapidly decrease by 60% within seconds, due to a cloud passing over the solar panels causing a reduction in solar insolation.”
“Batteries have quick reaction times, i.e., can quickly charge and discharge electricity. Any rapid solar output decreases (downward spikes) due to clouds are quickly offset.”
“The upward and downward spikes of wind output are much slower, MW/min, instead of MW/sec. Gas turbines (and hydro plants) can easily adjust their outputs to offset any wind up/down spikes.”
“Till now, the solar downward spikes have been minor in most geographical areas, but as installed solar capacities increase for a given area, more and more of expensive, grid-scale, battery capacity would be needed to prevent frequently roiling the grid during variable cloudy weather.”
“NOTE: This has nothing to do with the daily ‘duck’ curves, which have become very evident in southern Germany and southern California, and present an additional disturbance to the grid to be managed by grid operators, mostly with existing gas turbine generators and hydro plants.”
“Large-scale solar plants requiring large-scale battery systems are bad news for the future economics of solar. Significantly increased solar build-outs could not happen (they would disturb the grid too much) without also building out expensive grid-scale battery systems. That is the main reason southern Germany and southern California, each with large capacities of solar, have been installing battery systems during the past 5 years.”
BSME (BS in Mechanical Engineering) New Jersey Institute of Technology, MSME (MS in Mechanical Engineering) Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, MBA, University of Connecticut. P.E. (Professional Engineer) Connecticut. Consulting Engineer and Project Manager. Performed feasibility studies, wrote master plans, and evaluated designs for air pollution control systems, power plants, and integrated energy systems for campus-style building complexes. Currently specializing in energy efficiency in buildings.
BESS (Battery Energy Storage Systems) are not capable of delivering electricity longer than a brief period of time — measured in hours, not days. A longer term battery system would be astronomically expensive to build. Moreover, like your car battery, lithium-ion batteries lose their storage capacity over time and must be replaced. They must also be kept cool in summer and warm in winter, which is why BESS containers have large HVAC (heating, ventilation, air conditioning) systems attached to them. If the Li-ion batteries overheat, the results are catastrophic.
All well and good, except for the elephant in the room . . .
The clean energy industry needs to come clean and call these Battery Energy Storage Systems for what they truly are:
Temperamental, high-tech explosive devices which also happen to store electricity, briefly. Put slightly differently, they are a reckless, ego-driven experiment in industrial-scale thermodynamics using Firemen as Guinea Pigs
The “bomb squad” charged with responding to the crisis happens to be the local fire department. I assure you, neither my township fire department nor yours is equipped to handle this. But “handle this” they must.
No doubt the solar and wind industry — renewable energy companies tend to install both “wind” and “solar” — will object to my calling these things bombs. Nothing surprising in this. For many years, the same corporations flatly denied that wind turbines produce infrasound (from the blade passing the tower). When they and their academic shills could no longer get away with this lie, they argued that the infrasound is harmless. And so it goes.
I referred to these BESS as a reckless, ego-driven experiment in industrial-scale thermodynamics. Yes, I had Elon Musk in mind. Musk seems to be the principal force behind these BESS monsters, which are but an extension of his electric cars.
It’s time blow the whistle on this man’s bizarre and dangerous fantasies. When news media dare to draw attention to his electric cars exploding on impact or, for that matter, spontaneously combusting and then exploding, Elon gets pissed. Consider the video below, evidently captured by a parking garage security camera in Shanghai, China, in April of this year. Then watch the 2 videos below that, of another Model S blowing up after rear-ending a disabled car on a Moscow freeway last month. (Click here to read the story of the Moscow horror-show.) Then watch the video below that of the 2018 Tesla Model X in Monroeville PA in Feb. and April of this year.
For more on Tesla cars going “kaboom!” read this Business Insider article (below, right), “Life, Death, and Spontaneous Combustion: Here’s Why the Debate about Tesla Fires Just Got More Fierce” (April 26, 2019).
Back to BESS bombs. If you’re a municipal or other public officer reading this, understand that wind and solar energy are “lightly” regulated industries owing to the hysteria over “climate change” (a subject beyond the scope of this article) and the absurd renewable energy mandates being set up by politicians, state by state.
The letter, to the left, is from a case I have been party to. The request by the wind company attorneys for “lightened regulation” and “expedited treatment” is standard practice by these companies. And, yes, the New York State Dept. of Public Service always rolls over for these people.
The National Fire Protection Association to the rescue. Sort of.
Watch this video, made by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a global, non-profit, non-industry-affiliated, non-governmental organization much like Underwriter Laboratories, with whom it often collaborates. (The video’s cover image, supplied by me, shows Australia’s mammoth Tesla Hornsdale Power Reserve battery system, servicing a 315 MW French-owned wind plant.)
NFPA is struggling to address the problem of BESS BOMBS, and God bless it for this, but the massive size, unpredictability, and fragility of these frankensteins is beyond anything they have witnessed before — and they’ve been in business since 1896.
A Box of Chemicals
Consider these red flags from the NFPA Journal. The icing on the cake is from the renewable energy giant, Invenergy. “At the end of the day . . . you’re buying a box of chemicals.”* A box of chemicals with a bunch of trick candles on top.
* Kris Zadlow, Senior VP Invenergy, quoted by Julian Spector in Greentech Media 4/19/19). Click here.
In this dramatic test (right) conducted in November 2015 at the Tesla test site by the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) for its parent organization, the NFPA, a tremendous amount of toxic hydrogen fluoride (HF) gas was ejected from the burning container:
The CDC's Nat. Inst. for Occupational Safety & Health (NIOSH) recommends no more than 3 ppm (parts per million) of HF gas exposure averaged over 15 minutes
OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) permits no more than 3 ppm (parts per million) of HF gas exposure averaged over 8 hours
Quick takeaways from the report, published Feb. 2016:
The NFPA’s Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) contracted with an engineering consulting firm, Exponent, to conduct the controlled ignition, using the Tesla Powerpack (100 kWh commercial BESS) shown above. The image, right, shows a cluster of the same Powerpacks, as often seen at solar and wind farm installations. (These images and captions are taken from the report , “Hazard Assessment of Lithium Ion Battery Energy Storage Systems,” Feb. 2016, shown above.)
The research personnel included energy company employees:
Notice on p. v, below, under the heading "Project Technical Panel," that several of the individuals doing the experiment were from the renewable energy industry, including NEC Energy, the California Energy Storage Alliance, Dominion Resources Services, and Tesla Motors.
Two controlled ignitions:
Also note, pp. 71 and 77, below, that there were 2 controlled "burns" (ignitions): 1 external to the Powerpack and 1 internal within the Powerpack. It was the external ignition that produced "off the charts" (>100 ppm) HF gas. The internal ignition got up to 26 ppm of HF and then began dissipating. The internal ignition did, however, induce "thermal runaway," dramatically shown in the NFPA video, above.
On p. 82, we find the
Here is a schematic diagram of a typical lithium-ion battery, as used in solar & wind BESS (Battery Energy Storage Systems).
It’s misleading to call these “Lithium-Ion” batteries. They should really be called “Lithium-Hexafluorophosphate” batteries — to draw attention to the HF gas and acid exposure when these batteries ignite or explode.
The electrolyte in lithium-ion batteries is typically lithium hexafluorophosphate. This is the source of the fluorine in the hydrogen fluoride gas (vapor or mist or smoke) and hydrofluoric acid ejected during thermal runaway or fire or explosion.
Here are three articles worth reading. The one on the left, written by staff for the Arthur D. Little consulting firm, gives a brief overview of various types of lithium-ion batteries. Note, in particular, the section on electrolytes. Although they may differ in the chemical composition of the cathode & anode & separator, virtually all these batteries use LiPF6 for the electrolyte.
The other two articles are from Wikipedia. Since Wikipedia articles are written by a variety of individuals, they tend to be somewhat disjointed. This is the case here, as well.