Giant lithium-ion batteries have an alarming habit of exploding and, when they do, literally burning for days.

Following up on our recent post concerning just such a case – where a Tesla mega-battery exploded in a toxic fireball in southwest Victoria – here’s a couple from the team at Jo Nova and Watts Up With That? that detail the aftermath.

The Tesla battery fire burned for longer than it operated for
Jo Nova Blog
Jo Nova
3 August 2021

We all heard about the Tesla Megabattery fire in Victoria last Friday, but you may not know it only started operating on Thursday night. Or that 30 fire trucks and 150 firefighters took 76 hours to get the blazing battery under control.

So it burned for three times longer than it operated.

When they burn, Tesla batteries produce smoke with aluminum, cadmium, arsenic, mercury, lead, selenium, manganese and chromium.

Luckily no one would put a large Tesla battery inside their home, eh?

Firefighters were essentially helpless to stop the 13 ton lithium battery from burning, but they did stop the rest of the battery plant catching fire.

“…we cannot put them out with water or anything else. The best way to deal with these things is to let them burn until they are burnt out. If we try and cool them down, it just prolongs the process. …this wind is helping us by keeping it burning fairly freely,”

the CFA’s Assistant Chief Fire Officer Ian Beswicke said.

“But we could be here anywhere from 8 to 24 [or even 76] hours while we wait for it to burn down.”

They also measured air quality and issued warnings to residents to get themselves and their pets indoors, close windows, and turn off their heating and cooling so they didn’t breath in the toxic smoke. (That must have been a fun weekend in midwinter.)

No price is too high when you’re saving the planet.

Geelong’s Tesla Big Battery fire burns over weekend
Australian Financial Review
Jessica Sier
1 August 2021

A fire at French renewable energy giant Neoen’s Victorian Big Battery at Geelong continued to burn into Sunday, with fire crews awaiting experts from Tesla to assist in opening the Megapack battery that first caught ablaze.

The fire started at the partly federally funded 300-megawatt Tesla Megapack battery project at Moorabool on Friday morning. Fire crews quickly containing the blaze but were unable to extinguish it completely to determine what started it. A Country Fire Authority spokesperson said the fire had been contained to two battery packs, but sparks flared up every so often, re-igniting the blaze. Tesla did not respond to requests for comment.

The Tesla battery is expected to become the largest in the southern hemisphere, capable of discharging 450 megawatt hours (MWh) of electricity, as part of a Victorian government push to transition to renewable energy.
Australian Financial Review

Luckily no one was injured, but some nearby crops will be enriched in heavy metals.

The first sign of any operation was at 6:15pm the night before. Some part of the plant was operational for at least 16 hours.

So really it burned for four times longer than it ran for.

The incident did not disrupt the grid, but if the battery plant was operating on a hot sunny day and it caught fire, Victoria might not be so lucky. If this had been a coal plant on fire, presumably someone would have already calculated the cadmium and lead effect and how many spotted-quoll-years were lost.

Jo Nova Blog

Toxic Horror Show Geelong Grid Backup Battery Fire Finally Extinguished
Watts Up With That?
Eric Worall
3 August 2021

Imagine if people were crazy enough to install these difficult to extinguish battery incendiary devices in their homes or automobiles, or near populated areas. Imagine what such foolishness could do to insurance premiums, once companies catch on to the risk of batteries acting as potent initiators and accelerants in house fires, or realise they might have to unexpectedly cover the cleanup cost of adjacent homes and gardens contaminated with poisonous residues from the battery smoke.

Blaze at Tesla Big Battery extinguished after three days
The Age
Lucy Battersby and Cassandra Morgan
2 August 2021

Fire crews have extinguished a blaze at Victoria’s new Tesla Big Battery, the largest lithium-ion battery in the country, after taking more than three days to bring it under control.

One of the Tesla megapack batteries at the site in Moorabool, near Geelong, caught fire during testing shortly after 10am on Friday.

The Victorian Big Battery, with a capacity of 300 megawatts and 450 megawatt-hours, is three times bigger than the initial size of billionaire Elon Musk’s Tesla big battery built in South Australia in 2017.

The authority said that, because of the nature of the fire – a 13-tonne battery – firefighters couldn’t put water on it or employ ordinary suppression methods. Instead, they had to let it “burn out” and wait for the container to cool down enough to open its doors.

Authorities had warned of toxic smoke billowing from the site on Friday. Victoria’s Environment Protection Authority has been monitoring air quality at the site over the weekend, and determined it was “good” by Monday afternoon.
The Age

At the very least in my opinion these batteries should be sited well away from densely populated areas, and the practice of storing large batteries near or inside homes should cease. As political vanity causes grid scale battery packs to grow in size, the potential for long term harm to anyone unlucky enough to breath the smoke or eat produce grown in battery smoke fallout contaminated soil will also rise.

Watts Up With That?


August 9, 2021