Tesla Megapack battery bursts into flames at PG&E substation in California


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Just weeks after Tesla announced its $5 billion acquisition of SolarCity, the company’s Powerpack battery caught fire at an electrical substation in Walnut Park, California. It was reported that the fire started when the system was put under heavy loads on Friday afternoon, but no one was injured during the incident and no other damage was caused. To figure out what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again, we need to understand more about the Tesla Megapack battery.

At least one Tesla Megapack caught fire at the PG&E-run energy storage plant in Monterey, California, early on Tuesday.

According to PG&E spokesperson Jeff Smith, as of late Tuesday morning, there were no power interruptions for PG&E customers and no injuries to on-site staff as a result of the incident. According to Smith in an email, the California utility learned about the incident around 1:30 in the morning on September 20, 2022.

At the time of publishing, the fire had not yet been completely put out.

The Elkhorn Battery in Moss Landing, an 182.5 megawatt (MW) Tesla Megapack system, was put into service by PG&E in April of this year.

Huge batteries like the Megapack, as well as those made by ABB and Northvolt, allow grid operators to transfer extra capacity between counties or states and guarantee that power from intermittent sources can be stored and used when demand is higher or there are unanticipated transmission network outages.

The Moss Landing energy storage system fires are similar to Australian events with Tesla Megapacks. They also highlight the difficulties in implementing new technologies to enhance the effectiveness of the power grid and maximise the usage of intermittent, renewable sources of electricity like wind and solar.

At Moss Landing in Monterey, there are two separate energy storage initiatives. One is run by PG&E and the other by Vistra, a company located in Texas. A Vistra representative told CNBC on Tuesday that the incident had no effect on their facilities. However, there have already been two instances of overheating on the Vistra side of Moss Landing.

Following the incident, the California Highway Patrol diverted traffic away from the plant for hours while closing a portion of Highway 1.

Following the incident, several locals in the vicinity of the Moss Landing Elkhorn Battery substation were advised to take cover due to emissions.

An air pollution control officer for the Monterey Bay Air Resources District (MBARD), Richard Stedman, claims that lithium ion battery fires can release harmful substances including hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acid. According to him, MBARD did not have any information regarding the Elkhorn Battery fire’s immediate effects on air quality, but would collaborate with local authorities to investigate the matter once the fire has been completely put out.

The battery storage facility’s safety safeguards instantly unplugged it from the electrical grid when the problem was discovered, according to PG&E’s Jeff Smith.


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