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National Articles

The Arizona Battery Explosion Is Changing Conventional Wisdom on Safety


Six months later, GTM gets an exclusive update from APS and Fluence on an event that’s forcing a new look at grid battery engineering.


It's been nearly six months since an explosion ripped through a grid battery near Phoenix and upended the industry's understanding of the technology's safety.

The McMicken conflagration injured first responders and marred the safety record of the U.S. energy storage industry. The ability to store wind and solar electricity is crucial to the continued growth of clean energy, but the fire showed the risks of battery storage, even when handled by highly experienced professionals.

Utility Arizona Public Service has invested heavily in understanding and operating batteries, well ahead of most of its peers. Fluence, which took the McMicken system online in 2017, helped kick off the industry and has operated since 2008 with a clean safety record (previously as AES Energy Storage).

Inexperience, then, did not play a role in this fire. Neither did any obvious technical malfunction.

Burn before you build: The importance of destructive battery testing

JULY 30, 2019 BY  

  Batteries solve the problem of intermittent solar irradiance and reliable clean energy. With energy storage systems, PV project owners and off-takers can continue using solar power long after the sun sets. After years of hype, battery systems are finally gaining traction in major markets, especially in states such as Hawaii, which no longer offers net energy metering to new residential solar customers. Yet energy storage systems remain a niche application in most of the United States and across the global solar market.

Safety is an important factor preventing adoption of solar + storage. Lithium-ion batteries, the dominant chemistry in energy storage systems (ESS) today, can pose significant risks to life and property when they are poorly designed, installed or maintained. These batteries contain volatile hydrocarbon electrolytes that can cause large, uncontrollable fires or explosions in certain conditions. Fire codes and standards designed to make ESS safer are currently being developed and adopted, but there is significant uncertainty and lack of awareness regarding these safe practices.

Battery fire knocked down at Milford energy plant

By Lisa Backus

 Published 5:37 am EST, Thursday, December 19, 2019 

    MILFORD - State Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and local fire crews worked Wednesday to make sure there were no environmental impacts after a battery fire at a Naugatuck Avenue energy plant.

    About 20 large batteries caught fire at the NRG, The Devon Power LLC, energy plat at 734 Naugatuck Ave. at around 2:53 p.m., reports said.

    The fire caused the batteries to spill acid on the ground, which crews said was contained by the plant's system, WTNH said.

Construction Begins In Wisconsin On Large Solar Farms, Amid Neighbor Concerns

  By   OCT 22, 2019  

    Construction is underway on a large solar energy farm 90 minutes north of Milwaukee, and state regulators are considering approval of a second farm nearby. These projects, along with one approved this year for southwest Wisconsin, would be the first so-called utility solar developments in the state. That's because they are large and electric utilities like WE Energies are closely involved. 

    But as with controversies over more traditional power plants, some neighbors aren't sold on big solar.

    For the most part, solar energy in Wisconsin has meant homeowners and businesses adding solar panels to their roof. But the cost of the panels has come down to the point where electric utilities are now putting up hundreds of panels, and planning to sell the electricity to other utilities.

Solar farm opponents file second lawsuit against Madison County

Ken de la Bastide

The Herald Bulletin


Nov 3, 2019

ANDERSON — As was anticipated, the opponents of the proposed Lone Oak Solar Energy Center have filed a second lawsuit against the Madison County Board of Zoning Appeals.

The BZA has twice voted for the $110 million project that is expected to generate 120 megawatts of electricity in northern Madison County.

The Madison County Council voted last month to deny a requested tax abatement for project developer Invenergy. The company has since announced it is delaying the start of construction.

Both lawsuits filed by the opponents of the project concern votes cast by members of the Board of Zoning Appeals and say the decisions were arbitrary and capricious.

The second lawsuit was filed last week in Madison Circuit Court Division 6 requesting a judicial review to reverse the two votes approving special use for the 1,200-acre project.

2 projects, 10 MW coming to Southern Virginia: The city of Danville, Virginia will be...

Morning Brief: 20 MW of storage for New York, twin projects announced in Virginia

  DECEMBER 18, 2019   

New York, Glidepath come to terms on 20 MW storage project: “On Friday December 13, NYSERDA announced an incentive award for GlidePath Power Solutions’ Lincoln Park Grid Support Center. The 20 MW standalone battery storage facility will receive an $8.8 million incentive.  This is one of the first contracts awarded by NYSERDA’s Market Acceleration Bridge Incentive Program and the program’s largest award to date. GlidePath’s Lincoln Park project was recognized by the New York League of Conservation Voters for its work to expand clean energy and New York reach its climate and energy goals. Lincoln Park is one of several New York storage projects that GlidePath expects construct by the end of 2021 and part of the company’s 1+ GW battery storage development pipeline.” Source: Glidepath

2 projects, 10 MW coming to Southern Virginia: The city of Danville, Virginia will be...

Neighbors fighting solar farm plans

By Carla Bayron | Posted: Thu 4:45 PM, Oct 31, 2019  | Updated: Thu 8:01 PM, Oct 31, 2019  

The 850-acre project named 'Sandstone Creek Solar' will be near Needmore and Pinch Highway in Benton Township.

Geronimo Energy, a renewable energy company, applied for a permit with Eaton County about two weeks ago.

According to the company, the proposed solar energy system will generate enough energy to power more than 23,000 homes annually and will reduce greenhouse emissions by more than 135,000 metric tons of carbon a year.

"It's easy living. Beautiful views. Nice place to be. Calm and quiet," Charles Meddaugh said of his home of 15 years nearby the proposed site. He's concerned the solar field will affect his wife's health.

"My wife has MS. She's susceptible to heat. What happens when you blow wind through 600 acres of hot steel and solar panels and have it drift across? It's going to raise the ambient temperature."

When Residents Support Solar—Just ‘Not in My Backyard’


 NOVEMBER 20, 2019  

Fawn Lake, a gated community in rural Spotsylvania County, Virginia, boasts expansive single-family homes with big yards and a nearby country club with an 18-hole Arnold Palmer Signature golf course. It’s a picturesque enclave, surrounded by sparkling lakes and rolling green fields that were once Civil War battlegrounds.

Soon, Fawn Lake will have a new neighbor: a 500 MW solar power plant, with an array of 1.8 million panels. In April, the Utah-based solar company S-Power won approval from the county board of advisors to build the largest section of its plant on part of the 6,350 acres of logging land adjoining the cul-de-sacs of Fawn Lake. And many residents aren’t happy about it.

Solar Energy:  Yes or No?

By  Dr. Calvin Luther Martin
November 20, 2019

I’m Dr. Calvin Luther Martin, retired Rutgers University professor of history (with, incidentally, graduate training in molecular biology/immunology and B.A. degree in biology).  I am part of FARM, a bunch of crusty NYS old-timers who sized up the industrial solar proposition — and decided “no.”

Photovoltaic (PV) panels on rooftops, brownfield sites, abandoned parking lots, abandoned shopping malls are a great idea. In other words, relatively small arrays for local power.

ESG Funds Draw SEC Scrutiny

By Juliet Chung and Dave Michaels
Updated Dec. 16, 2019 7:05 am ET

Many investment firms have been touting new products as socially responsible. Now, regulators are scrutinizing some funds in an attempt to determine whether those claims are at odds with reality.
The Securities and Exchange Commission has sent examination letters to firms as record amounts of money flow into ESG funds. These funds broadly market themselves as trying to invest in companies that pursue strategies to address environmental, social or governance challenges, such as climate change and corporate diversity.

The Race Is on to Build a Better Battery 

By Jeffrey Ball

May 24, 2019

At first glance, all seems serene on a spring morning at the research-and-development campus of SK Innovation, one of Korea’s biggest industrial conglomerates. The campus sits in Daejeon, a tidy, planned city an hour’s high-speed-train ride south of Seoul that the national government has built up as a technology hub. Dotting SK’s rolling acres are tastefully modern glass-and-steel buildings that wouldn’t be out of place in a glossy architecture magazine. One contains a library, its tables stocked with rolls of butcher paper and Post-it notes to spur creativity. Another houses an espresso bar where engineers queue for caffeination. A cool breeze blows. Birds chirp. Pink cherry blossoms bloom.

Solar Panels Produce Tons of Toxic Waste—Literally 

Bill Wirtz

Monday, November 18, 2019  

  Solar panels have been heralded as the alternative to fossil fuels for decades. Most readers have likely seen exciting headlines claiming we could power the world's energy demands multiple times were we simply to cover the Sahara Desert with a solar farm the size of China. The fact that such endeavors would be unsustainable due to their size and the sheer amount of maintenance required or that the necessary infrastructure to bring this energy all around the world is simply unimaginable is irrelevant to those who dream of a solar future.  

USMCA Will Lead to Agricultural, Manufacturing, Economic Growth in New York

By: U.S. Chamber Staff

OCT 10, 2019 - 7:30AM

This fall all eyes are on Congress in hopes that it will pass the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA). The passage of the USMCA is integral to the economic health of the United States. Why? Because Canada and Mexico now constitute the nations’ two largest export markets, as well as two of its’ top three aggregate trading partners. In 2018, trade with the two countries reached nearly $1.4 trillion, and this economic activity supports an estimated 12 million American jobs.

But, how will the USMCA prove beneficial for New York specifically?

ABC15 Arizona  

By: Karla Navarrete

Posted: 7:04 PM, Aug 12, 2019 Updated: 10:30 PM, Aug 12, 2019  

SURPRISE, AZ — Almost four months after an explosion at an Arizona Public Service battery storage facility, body camera video of more than a dozen officers has been released.

Solar storage facilities present unique hazard for firefighters

ABC15 Arizona  

By: Cameron Polom

Posted: 5:59 PM, Apr 21, 2019 Updated: 10:21 PM, Apr 21, 2019 
SURPRISE, AZ — Eight firefighters are recovering after being injured in an explosion at an Arizona Public Service Co. facility in Surprise Friday night.

Arizona fire highlights challenges for energy storage

Associated Press  

By JONATHAN J. COOPER June 23, 2019

PHOENIX (AP) — Arizona’s largest electric company installed massive batteries near neighborhoods with a large number of solar panels, hoping to capture some of the energy from the afternoon sun to use after dark.