In recent years, there has been a marked increase in the deployment of lithium ion batteries in energy storage systems (ESS) in commercial occupancies. Local Authorities Having Jurisdiction (AHJs) along with the ESS integrators and installers are challenged by the lack of clear direction on fire protection and suppression in these installations.
The 2016 Fire Protection Research Foundation project “Fire Hazard Assessment of Lithium Ion Battery Energy Storage Systems” identified gaps and research needs to further understand the fire hazards of lithium ion battery energy storage systems. There is currently limited data available on the fire hazard of energy storage systems (ESS) including two full-scale open-air tests from the 2016 Foundation project and a separate project that included intermediate scale fire testing conducted at the module level to evaluate the performance of fire suppressants. The fire protection and fire service communities need guidance on protection requirements for these systems in a building.
The Research Foundation initiated this second phase project, which was supported by the Property Insurance Research Group (PIRG), NEC Solutions, and Retriev Technologies, to determine sprinkler protection guidance for grid-connected lithium-ion battery based ESS for commercial occupancies. As part of the study, FM Global conducted small-scale and large-scale free burn tests and large-scale sprinkler protected tests in order to develop sprinkler protection recommendations. There are two reports published for this effort, the test report by FM Global and available on their website and the second summary report by Exponent and available through the Foundation.
Based on testing at the module level by others to evaluate the performance of various fire suppressants, including water, and supported by the large-scale testing completed by FM Global, it was concluded that water is the most effective fire suppressant. All tests in this study were performed on donated battery modules of two different chemistries; lithium iron phosphate (LFP) and nickel manganese cobalt oxide (NMC). While it is not possible to test every type of battery, testing two different chemistries provides useful information on how they each react and behave. The predominant difference in the hazard was the battery chemistry and energy density.
Read the report on the Foundation website to get details on the tests and the resulting guidance for general protection for lithium-ion battery based ESS located in commercial occupancies. In addition, there will be a presentation at NFPA C&E on Tuesday, June 17 at 5pm Central and a sponsored Foundation webinar on Thursday, June 27 from 12:30 to 2pm Eastern.
Image: Reprinted with permission from FM Global. Source: Research Technical Report Development of Sprinkler Protection Guidance for Lithium Ion Based Energy Storage Systems, © 2019 FM Global. All rights reserved.