Tesla Megapack fire finally under control, no word on delays to Victoria Big Battery

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Note: This story has been updated with latest fire authority statement

The fire that destroyed two Tesla Megapack containers at the Victoria Big Battery on Friday morning was finally brought under control on Monday afternoon, authorities said, although there is no word yet on what impact the incident will have on the commissioning of Australia’s biggest battery.

The Country Fire Authority said in an update on Sunday afternoon that the fire – which broke out on in one Megapack unit on Friday morning on the second day of testing and then spread to another container – has “subsided significantly.”

In an update on Monday morning, it said the fire “is not yet under control.” In a later statement issued at 5pm, it said the fire was now under control, all doors to the affected containers of the battery had been opened, and there was no sign of fire. Firefighters will remain on the scene for another 24 hours.

French renewable energy and battery storage developer Neoen said in a statement on Sunday evening that the CFA remained on site to monitor the “temperature decline” of the two battery packs, and air monitoring revealed no evidence of any toxicity in the fire or the air.

“The EPA’s air monitoring has shown there has been good air quality in the local community,” Neoen Australia managing director Louis de Sambucy said in a statement.

“As previously advised, there were no injuries, the site was disconnected from the grid and there has been no impact to electricity supply.

“Investigation preparations are underway and physical inspections will commence once the CFA have completed their procedures.”

The big question will be the cause of the fire, and if it is a manufacturing or installation or production fault, and what impact the fire will have on the full deployment of the 300MW/450MWh battery, which apart from being the biggest in the country was due to play a significant role in the grid this summer.

Neoen has signed a 10-year contract with the Australian Energy Market Operator to provide support to the grid during peak periods in summer, allowing the capacity of the transmission line between NSW and Victoria and providing frequency control and ancillary services.

Neoen CEO Xavier Barbaro told an investor briefing in Paris on Friday night Australian time that two of the 212 Megapack modules at the site had been damaged by the fire.

Barbaro said it was too early to say if there would be a delay on the date of commissioning, but there would be no impact on the company’s profit guidance for the coming half as it was not expected to make a significant contribution as it would up its capacity.

The Victoria Big Battery obtained its registration last week and began testing on Thursday, and again on Friday before the fire erupted. It was working towards the first “hold point” that would allow for 30MW of the installation to be deployed.

Fire authorities sent more than 30 fire trucks and support vehicles and about 150 firefighters from CFA and Fire Rescue Victoriato the incident.

They said that because of the intensity of lithium battery first meant there was no point trying to put the fire out, merely contain it and stop it from spreading to other containers.

It is not clear which chemistry is being used in these Megapacks. Tesla announced earlier this year it was switching from NMC (lithium nickel manganese cobalt) to LFP (lithium iron phosphate) which is said to be more fire resistant and non toxic.

According to Utility Dive, LFP batteries have lower energy density, but have a safety advantage because they require more heat to reach thermal runaway, which is what happens when a failing battery cell heats up and triggers a chain reaction that can lead to an explosion.

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