Tesla Megapack containers on fire at site of Australia’s biggest battery

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Fire has damaged two containers holding Tesla Megapack batteries during testing at the newly registered Victoria Big Battery at Moorabool, near Geelong.

The images above and below were filmed by Channel 7. It comes just days after the battery – which will be the largest in Australia when completed at 300MW/450MWh – received its official registration.

The battery, which had just begun testing, is owned by Neoen Australia, which also owns the first “Tesla big battery” at the Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia, and the Bulgana big battery in Geelong, which also uses Tesla technology.

In a statement, Neoen Australia managing director Louis de Sambucy said: “We can confirm that during initial testing today at approximately 10-10.15am a fire occurred within one of the Tesla Megapacks at the Victorian Big Battery. No-one was injured and the site has been evacuated.

“Neoen and Tesla are working closely with emergency services on site to manage the situation. The site has been disconnected from the grid and there will be no impact to the electricity supply.

“We will provide updates and further details as they become available.”

Firefighters were called to the scene of the battery fire at the corner of Geelong-Ballan Rd and Atkinsons Rd around 11am, a spokesman told the local paper, the Geelong Advertiser.

The spokesman said a 13 tonne lithium battery located in a shipping container was fully alight. More than 30 fire trucks and support vehicles and about 150 firefighters from CFA and Fire Rescue Victoria responded to the incident.

“Crews are working to contain the fire and stop it spreading to nearby batteries,” a spokesman said. Fire authorities later said the fire spread to a second container but was contained. Fire crews were monitoring overnight.

The Victoria Big Battery is due to be in full operation this summer, and has a 10-year contract with the Australian Energy Market Operator to provide network services that will allow the capacity of the main transmission link between NSW and Victoria to be increased at times of peak demand.

The battery will also provide FCAS services and time-shift the output of wind and solar farms to help meet peak demand.

Each Megapack is sized at around 3MWh of lithium ion battery storage. They are made at Tesla’s US Gigafactory and recently announced a change from NMC (lithium nickel, manganese, cobalt) to LFP (lithium iron phosphate), which is said to have reduced fire risk.

It is not known which chemistry was used in the Megapacks deployed at Moorabool.

It is the first utility-scale battery to use Tesla Megapacks in Australia (Neoen’s previous Tesla batteries used the smaller Powerpacks), although the 50MW/75MWh Wallgrove big battery being built by Transgrid in western Sydney also uses Megapack technology.

This graph from Watt Clarity shows the Victoria Big Battery did some tests on Thursday and then again on Friday morning, just before the fire was reported.

Just a day ago, de Sambucy celebrated the registration of the Victoria Big Battery, which he noted had occurred in just over 200 days after the start of construction. The battery installation was planning a gradual ramp up of capacity, as is usual with new connections to the grid in Australia.

This is the first known incident of its type at a grid-scale battery storage facility in Australia. Currently there are six large scale batteries operating on Australia’s main grid, with others operating in private networks in the Pilbara or in off grid and remote centres.

Two grid scale big batteries – the Victoria Big Battery and the Wandoan South big battery in Queensland, the first in that state, have recently obtained registration and have begun, or about to begin, testing. Another three big batteries are also under construction.

See RenewEconomy’s Big Battery Storage Map of Australia

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