One of Tesla’s Megapack batteries caught fire at a solar power battery facility in Victoria, Australia. The regional fire department responded to the fire at the facility in the city of Geelong with hazmat suits and equipment for hazardous chemical spills and specialized drones for atmospheric monitoring.
The French energy company Neoen, which operates the Victorian Big Battery facility at which the fire occurred, says that the site was evacuated and there were no injuries. The facility had been disconnected from the energy grid at the time. Freon and Tesla both worked with emergency services to resolve the situation. Due to the chemicals that are commonly used in batteries, a toxic smoke warning was issued for surrounding communities.
The 300 MW/450 MWh Victorian Big Battery facility is part of Victoria’s strategy to switch at least 50 percent of its electricity production to renewable energy sources by 2030. It was built following the success of the 100 MW/129 MWh battery farm in Southern Australia’s Hornsdale, which was built in 100 days and has already provided millions of dollars’ worth of cost savings to Australian power company customers.
In Australia, Tesla solar power battery facilities have already shown their usefulness in stepping up to the plate when a coal-fired power plant called the Callide Power Station exploded, knocking out power for 470,000 Queensland-area residents. The Hornsdale Power Reserve, a 150MW/194MWh Tesla Powerpack battery farm stepped up to the plate in under two seconds. Tesla referred to the incident in a report to the Australian Energy Security Board encouraging investment in improved infrastructure to support the transition to renewable and sustainable energy.
Tesla’s Megapacks are capable of storing solar energy for nighttime use. Tesla’s plans for its solar power batteries include decentralized virtual power plants that can help to smooth out demand on power grids and make them less vulnerable to “single points of failure” that can cause power outages for hundreds of thousands or millions of people if they go down.
Tesla is already working with Australia to equip thousands of homes with Powerwalls and solar panels for a test run of the virtual power plant and has similar plans for California to relieve pressure on the state’s power grid that has caused rolling blackouts and pleas from state government officials to conserve power whenever possible. Tesla has already opened up enrollment into the Californian virtual power plant in its mobile app for Powerwall owners.
Although information on the fire at the Victorian Big Battery facility is somewhat scanty, the potential damage seemed to be containable by a properly equipped firefighting crew though the battery that caught fire is likely to be unsalvageable at this point. Neoen’s plans for the facility includes the use of Autobidder software to sell power stored in the facility’s Megapacks to the power grid, especially during peak periods and after the sun sets. Victorian Big Battery currently has a contract with the Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) to provide an additional 250 MW of peak capacity for the Victoria to New South Wales Interconnector over the next decade.