Cathy Longley

Raising the bar on energy storage system safety in Denver

Blog Post created by Cathy Longley Employee on Feb 8, 2018

 

The growing popularity of energy storage systems (ESS) is perhaps no more evident than in Honolulu, where applications for permits rose more than 1,700% last year, according to PV. The number of requests granted by Honolulu city and county officials increased to 731, representing an astounding jump from the 40 ESS permits issued in 2016.


ESS installations are occurring in many corners of the world, and on vastly different scales, because utility companies, businesses, government agencies, and consumers are increasingly smitten with new energy sources, reduced costs, and the prospect of going green. GTM Research reports that by 2022 the U.S. energy storage market is expected to be worth $3.1 billion - a 9-fold increase from 2016 levels. The anticipated growth is due, in part, to states like New York, Massachusetts, and California facing imminent shutdown of nuclear power plants that provide significant amounts of power. Additionally, Texas, Oregon, Colorado, and Hawaii, have already mandated widespread energy storage systems deployment.


Yesterday in Denver, about 70 representatives from all sides of the ESS equation gathered at the NFPA Battery Energy Storage Systems Safety Summit to address a host of ESS concerns. Emergency responders, authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), manufacturers, facility managers, testing professionals, researchers, code officials and government representatives spent the day reviewing, discussing, and validating fire safety protocol for high powered batter energy storage and solar systems.


Participants asked questions, shared experiences and raised concerns in an effort to enhance NFPA’s Energy Storage System training for the fire service. NFPA recently received a second round of funding to update this first-of-its-kind ESS educational track with new market considerations and photovoltaic integration.


Consumers, utilities and businesses are working fast to take advantage of declining battery costs, government incentives, and integrated systems. Stakeholders are optimistic about ESS innovation but agree there are safety questions that need to be addressed long before an ESS project gets underway. What are the potential fire hazards? What codes or standards are in place to protect people and property? What monitoring, suppression and communications systems are available to minimize harm? Who’s ultimately responsible for an ESS site? Where are the shutoffs located? How will fire be suppressed? What are the commissioning and decommissioning protocols?


As the number of ESS installs rise so, too, will the propensity for emergency response. NFPA is updating its training so that first responders are prepared when they get the call for an ESS incident. NFPA’s Technical Committee is also working on NFPA 855 Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems so that authorities have defined benchmarks for energy storage systems.

 

The content and context for the ESS training and NFPA 855 is largely dependent on input from diverse stakeholders like those that gathered in Denver yesterday. In the long run, the collective wisdom of this highly engaged audience will benefit many different disciplines.

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