It has taken a while but finally the Clean Energy Council of Australia (CEC) has released guidelines that will tighten home battery storage reliability in terms of installations. A picture of an 'exploded' lithium-ion battery was circulating on Australian social media channels back in March which spurred an ongoing push for more reliable installation methods.
In Australia, specifically, installation standards have not been upheld and installation training has not been prioritized as of yet. In the United States, the National Fire Protection Association has been training firefighters to respond to fires caused by energy storage systems, according to MicroGridKnowledge. The fires synonymous with home energy storage units is caused by thermal runaway. This is where one cell fails and catches fire which causes the rest of the cells in a unit to also catch fire, causing an explosion. A firefighter, Matt Pais, explains: "When lithium-ion burns, it creates its own oxygen. It can create a violent explosion depending on the chemistry. The cells can explode why they overheat. If you take 20 or 30 of those cells and subject them to heat when you're testing the cells, you can have huge amounts of toxins and flammables."
Thus, the CEC in Australia has released the installation and safety guidelines for installing home energy storage units. The CEC now has Solar Accredited Installer cards that an installer is required to have to ensure that an installer is proficient in the tools of installing home energy storage unit systems. They have currently accredited 4,800 installers in Australia alone. Recently, you did not have to have any form of formal training to install energy storage units inside homes.
According to One Step Off the Grid, the Installation Guidelines for Grid-Connected Energy Systems with Battery Storage would be able to ensure secure installations that are done correctly and minimize the chance of accidents occurring with the installation of the estimated 50,000 battery storage systems to be connected in Australia in the next year.
CEC Chief Kate Thornton said: "Everyone is excited by the potential future of a future created by a combination of renewable energy, home energy storage and smart energy technologies. The new guidelines are an important step in making that vision a reality. It is obviously important that industry professionals take these risks extremely seriously and operate in a way that ensures the safety of themselves, their colleagues and consumers."
These guidelines also rely on the energy storage unit companies to engineer reliable products that don't malfunction and explode. To emphasize reliable engineering, the Dean of Engineering at the Engineering Insitute of Technology, Steve Mackay, broached the topic in the nineteenth episode of the Engineering News Network. The reliability is not limited to energy storage units, but it would be a good reminder to energy storage unit manufacturers to build reliable systems. And most of the electronic devices we use today are powered by lithium-ion, so the reliability of lithium-based products needs to be emphasized.
A lot of devices exhibit the 'bath tub' reliability curve which you're probably familiar with. Which means at the beginning of the life cycle of a product, high failure rate and then it settles down and then most of the product lifetime there is a low failure rate. Then, near the end of the lifetime you get that tweak upwards of high failure rate.
No product is going to be manufactured with a 100% reliability, for the simple reason that it would cost too much. Manufacturers and vendors wouldn't be able to sell their products. A lot of products - such as phones - do have a lower than 100% reliability. That is the way of the commercial world.
Mackay concludes by saying the only industry that needs to have complete, one hundred percent reliability is in the manufacturing of aircraft parts. However, it is clear that policymakers cannot keep up with the speed of invention in the battery storage industry, but, the Clean Energy Council of Australia are monitoring the situation and ensuring that installation methods are safe and reliable.