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With billions of dollars being invested in the deployment of battery storage, it’s vital that asset owners take steps to protect against fire risk.

US battery storage capacity increased 52% year on year to 10.7GW in the first quarter of 2023, according to data from S&P. The California Independent System Operator (CAISO) is the US leader for battery storage with 5.2 GW, or 48.2% of the nation’s total capacity. [1] However, the Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) area added the most capacity in Q1, ending the quarter with 3.3 GW, or 30.5% of US capacity, according to the data.

In total, the ERCOT area added 498.6 MW in Q1, or 70.2% of all US additions, followed by the Western Electricity Coordinating Council (WECC) with 115 MW added, or 16.2% of total US installations. All other regions installed less than 3% each.

Billions of dollars are being spent on increasing the deployment of battery storage in the US. Figures from BloombergNEF showed that, following the introduction of the US Inflation Reduction Act last year, “battery manufacturers raced to identify investment opportunities”, with the North American battery supply chain reaching almost $17 billion in new commitments by the end of 2022. [2]

Which were the largest battery projects completed in Q1 2023?

The six largest projects completed in Q1 were all located in the ERCOT or WECC regions, they were:

- Acciona Energy North America's 190-MW BT Cunningham Storage in Texas

- Aypa Power Development's 155.5-MW Wolf Tank Storage facility in Texas

- Key Capture Energy's 51.5-MW KCE TX 19 facility in Texas

- Key Capture Energy's 51.5-MW KCE TX 21 facility in Texas

- NextEra Energy Resources' 50-MW Buena Vista Energy Center facility in New Mexico

- Arizona Public Service's 50-MW El Sol BESS facility in Arizona

However, while Texas was the leading state for capacity additions in Q1 2023, it is anticipated that data will show that California has taken over as the market leader in the second quarter of the year. Developers in CAISO are expected to add 1.623 GW, or 51.1% of all US planned additions during the quarter, while WECC is projected to add 1.2 GW, or 38%, according to S&P. ERCOT is expected to be in third position with 200 MW added, or 6.3% of Q2 additions. Looking at the longer-term forecast, it is expected that CAISO will have 6.852 GW of battery storage installed by the end of 2023 and 9.352 GW by the end of 2024. ERCOT will be the second ranked region with an expected 4.954 GW by the end of this year and 6.954 GW by the end of 2024. Meanwhile, WECC – which covers the Western Interconnection area, including two Canadian provinces, 14 western states and Northern Baja Mexico – is forecast to hit 1.172 GW of capacity in 2023 and 1.925 GW by the end of 2024.

Why fire regulations vary from state to state

Battery fire protection regulations in the US are adopted on a state-by-state basis. As a result, individual states may have differing fire codes, with the result that different rules will be applied when designing and installing energy storage systems in each state. Consequently, while some energy storage manufacturers work in partnership with fire suppression experts at the design stage, other project owners may be forced to retrofit fire suppression systems to batteries to ensure they are complying with rapidly evolving regulatory frameworks.

To add to the confusion, some US states use the International Fire Code (IFC) for energy storage, while others adhere to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) code. In addition, NFPA and IFC fire code cycle adoption varies by state. For example, as of April 1, 2021, there were eight states on the 2012 cycle, 23 states (plus the District of Columbia) on the 2015 cycle, 17 states on the 2018 cycle, and two states (California and New York) on the 2021 cycle. [3]

Protecting against fire risk: Key recommendations

With energy storage deployment in the US growing rapidly, and billions of dollars being spent in the process, it’s vital that storage manufacturers, developers and owners take steps to protect energy storage assets against fire risk. Fire suppression systems are fundamental to storage fire protection strategies and, according to the NFPA, water-based suppression systems are among the most effective methods of cooling storage fires. It’s recommended that sprinkler systems that comply with ‘NFPA 13, Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler System,’ are installed in buildings housing energy storage systems. [4]

Energy storage developers and owners are also advised to consult with fire suppression experts to gain an understanding of the extent of the fire risks they face.


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