Fire crews in Chandler, Arizona, sent robots into a building at the Salt River Project where a 10 MW battery was smoldering.

From pv magazine USA

The Salt River Project, a 10 MW energy storage project that uses lithium-ion batteries, was dealt a blow last week when a fire broke out. Firefighters were alerted to a fire at the facility last Monday. During a press conference on Thursday, a spokesperson for the Chandler Fire Department confirmed that there was a battery on fire in the building but that sprinkler systems had been able to control it.

Three years ago firefighters in Peoria, Arizona, learned the hazards of battery fires first-hand when a fire at a battery facility left four firefighters injured. Because the Salt River Project facility had been smoldering for days, the firefighters used an abundance of caution before entering the building.

Keith Welch, battalion chief at Chandler Fire Department said, “We took a defensive strategy and for us that means we’re not going to open the door and go in without personnel to take a look because we know some of the potential hazards of the battery degradation and the off-gassing and the different hazards that can cause.”

Due to potentially hazardous gases leaking from the building, businesses in the area were asked to evacuate Thursday night as the robot opened the doors and entered the facility, allowing the gases to dissipate. The next day the robots were sent back in to measure gases before firefighters could enter.

The Salt River Project was announced in 2018 in conjunction with AES Corporation and with the storage solution supplied by Fluence. The plan for the project was to provide power to Salt River Project customers during high peak demand periods, and the project would also serve as an initiative to learn more about grid-scale battery storage. Salt River Project customers have had no interruption in service as a result of the fire.

An AES spokesperson said it’s too early to speculate on the cause.