New Energy Storage Safety Standards Set to Move Forward

Gita Subramony, ERS, for Zondits

Energy storage has been a trending technology in recent years. With prices for lithium-ion batteries rapidly decreasing, energy storage solutions are poised to move forward rapidly. Storage applications in urban environments such as New York City have been garnering attention, although safety, permitting, and siting have been barriers to implementation.

Currently, the New York City Fire Department, in collaboration with New York State Energy Research & Development Authority (NYSERDA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), are working to develop fire safety and permitting protocols for lithium-ion battery storage solutions in NYC. Additionally, NFPA has completed a draft version of NFPA 855 Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage System, which increases safety requirements for energy storage systems nationally.

Energy storage safety set to move forward in 2018 with new fire standards

Utility Dive, January 2, 2018

Most of the focus on energy storage safety has been on mobile applications, given the spate of exploding laptop and phone batteries.

Lithium-ion batteries used in those applications are under tighter restrictions for size and density that can lead to higher risks.

Stationary storage applications are often safer than mobile uses because there are not the same space constraints. But in some markets, space can also be an issue for stationary storage, especially with projects that use lithium-ion batteries.

Such systems could get a higher profile this year with the expected release of new safety protocols.

New York standards

New York City is a prime example. The Fire Department of New York (FDNY) is working on drawing up standards to ensure the safe installation of battery storage projects, but population density and bureaucratic overlap still make New York one of the most restrictive markets for energy storage projects.

FDNY is collaborating with the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA), the National Fire Protection Association, insurance companies and Consolidated Edison. Together they are working to come up with procedures and protocols for battery safety.

NYSERDA also is working with Con Ed on a joint battery energy storage safety initiative that aims to answer critical safety questions confronting FDNY and other agencies that are responsible for reviewing applications for energy storage installations. The initiative was undertaken in support of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s Reforming the Energy Vision, which, among other things, looks to reduce peak demand by using battery storage.

The city saw its first behind-the-meter installation last May — a 300 kW, 1.2 MWh lithium-ion battery project in Brooklyn. But that project is sited outside, where fire safety concerns are muted.

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