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A database detailing utility and commercial & industrial-scale energy storage failures over a 12-year period shows that California and New York are the US states that have experienced the most storage fires.

The US is the nation that has experienced the second most major energy storage related fires – after South Korea – according to data from the California-headquartered Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI).

The EPRI database shows that, globally, there were a total of 63 utility and commercial & industrial-scale energy storage “failure events” during the period 21 September 2011 to 27 July 2023 (1). Almost half of these events (31 in total) occurred in South Korea, the data shows, making it the country that has suffered the most such events during the 12-year period. However, the statistics also reveal that the US experienced the second highest number of major “failure events”, with a total of 19 during the period in question.

Which states in the US experienced the most major failure events? California reported the most incidents with five, followed by New York with four, and then Arizona, which reported three such incidents. The full breakdown by state was as follows:


State          Number of failure events

California           5

New York           4

Arizona               3

Hawaii                 1

Illinois                  1

Missouri              1

Oregon               1

Pennsylvania     1

Washington       1

Wisconsin           1

TOTAL     19


Recent high-profile US energy storage fires highlighted in the EPRI database included an incident in June this year involving two Powin battery storage systems that had been acquired by energy storage developer Convergent for a storage project in Warwick, New York (2). In addition, the database also includes an incident in May 2023 where a fire at a battery owned by NextEra Energy in East Hampton, New York was “safely contained” by a water sprinkler system (3).

While, South Korea and the US have experienced the most major energy storage fire incidents, the EPRI database showed that there had been significant failure events in a number of other countries including: Australia (three events), China (two), France (two), Taiwan (two), Belgium (one), Germany (one), Japan (one) and the UK (one)(4).

Public opposition to storage projects could increase due to fire risk fears

Worldwide deployment of battery storage is increasing rapidly. In the US, the introduction, in 2022, of the Inflation Reduction Act – which includes federal tax credits for standalone storage – has significantly enhanced the competitiveness of grid-scale installations with the result that storage capacity is expected to quadruple to 100GW by 2030. This is because the dramatic expansion of renewable energy sources such as wind and solar needs to be accompanied by a corresponding rise in energy storage deployment due to the intermittent nature of these types of renewable energy.

However, a recent report published by Firetrace International revealed that there is a real danger that public opposition to energy storage could grow significantly as a result of fire risk fears, threatening critical battery deployment and, as a result, net zero goals. Meanwhile, the report also highlighted US fire chiefs’ concerns that the risks facing first responders are increasing as more battery storage is installed. The report also said that insurers have warned that the use of lithium-ion batteries is causing “new fire protection challenges”, and that some insurers are becoming more reluctant to provide energy storage cover as a result.


Water-based suppression effective way of cooling storage fires

 The report also cited tests conducted by the insurer FM Global that proved that including sprinklers in energy storage systems could “delay or prevent the spread of fire to adjacent racks”. The report concluded that fire suppression systems should form a key element of any strategy for tackling energy storage fire risk. It also highlighted that the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has stated that water-based suppression systems are among the most effective methods of cooling a fire in an energy storage system.

As the report highlights, concerns about battery storage fire risk among communities and local planning authorities have ultimately led to the cancellation of energy storage projects, despite the fact that such facilities have a crucial role to play in the world’s transition to a low carbon economy. Fire chiefs, insurance companies and politicians have expressed fears about the potential risk to human life – as well as the significant financial risks – posed by battery fires. To alleviate concerns, it is crucial that energy storage systems incorporate fire suppression systems that eliminate risk to the public and minimize the potential financial impacts of fires. 


1. https://storagewiki.epri.com/index.php/BESS_Failure_Event_Database

2. https://www.convergentep.com/statement-on-warwick/

3. https://www.easthamptonstar.com/police-courts/2023531/roads-closed-trains-halted-over-smoldering-battery

4. https://www.tamarindo.global/articles/where-do-most-major-energy-storage-fires-occur

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