Australia’s largest battery burns for four days due to disastrous growth in technology


Victoria Big Battery, the largest battery in the Southern Hemisphere, burned last week and continued to burn for almost four days as firefighters struggled to extinguish one of the Tesla Battery Megapacks.

Battery failures have rekindled concerns that technology may not be feasible or sustainable as Australia moves to cleaner alternative energies.

At a 300-megawatt (MW) battery plant, an hour’s drive from central Melbourne, project director Neoen announced that the station was officially connected to the grid just two days later. One of the Tesla battery arrays has ignited. The completion of the project was officially scheduled by the end of the year.

The fire reportedly began early in the test, affecting only one adjacent megapack. The system could also be safely disconnected without affecting the grid.

No one was injured and, according to health reports, the air quality of the community was not compromised.

A spokesman for the Country Fire Authority (CFA) in Victoria said the incident was prolonged due to the challenges posed by lithium-ion batteries.

“This is the first megapack fire ever to occur in the world, our understanding,” said a spokesman.

“They can’t put water in the megapack, so they’re hard to fight … it’s just an extension of the length of time the fire burns,” he said. “The recommended process is to cool everything around us to prevent the fire from spreading and to burn it out.”

Epoch Times Photo
On July 30, 2021, a fire broke out at Victoria Big Battery in Muabourg, near Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. (Victoria Fire Rescue Team)

The investigation into the cause of the fire will be led by several groups such as Energy Safe Victoria, Victoria Police and CFA.

Large batteries are at the forefront of Victoria’s world-leading plan to halve emissions by 2030, making the state one of the first jurisdictions in the world to legislate the Net Zero target. ..

Is the battery suitable for the Australian grid?

Despite efforts to use batteries alongside renewable energy, Iven Mareels, a power grid system expert and professor of engineering at the University of Melbourne, said the technology is not suitable for large grid storage. Said it was appropriate.

“They have a role to play,” Marilles told The Epoch Times. “But it’s not a big grid.”

Lithium-ion batteries become cheaper over time, but the problem is primarily that they need too many batteries to fully support solar and wind systems, Marilles explained.

“We can’t build enough batteries to store for the grid,” Mareels said. “In my opinion, that won’t happen.”

In particular, Mareels pointed out that high-demand grid batteries tend to last for a very short period of time.

For example, the Hornsdale Power Reserve in South Australia, which was the largest in the world at the time of construction, outputs 150 MW and has a storage capacity of 185 megawatt hours (MWh).

The $ 172 million battery can output up to 74 minutes. This is not enough time for moments when the sun and wind are inoperable, such as windless nights.

Instead, Marilles suggested that Australia’s ticket to energy security lies in pumped-storage power generation, which uses reservoirs as a way to store energy.

“For large, large-scale storage, we always put money in the water before putting it in the battery,” says Marilles.

Snowy Hydro, a government-funded utility, is currently constructing a 2,000 MW, 350,000 MWh pumped-storage power generation system with a maximum output of 75 hours.

The Snowy 2.0 project is estimated to cost between $ 3.8 billion and $ 4.5 billion, but while it’s 20 times more expensive, water-based systems can store about 2,000 times more energy than Hornsdale.

To add to the list of issues, Mareels also emphasized the fact that lithium-ion batteries were not sustainable, despite the environmentally positive portrayals of technology advocates.

“Batteries aren’t as renewable as people think,” says Marilles.

In particular, lithium, an important element used in batteries, is a limited resource.

What’s more, Mareels said that battery recycling is difficult and expensive, and when combined with its inherently short lifespan, it is even less sustainable.

“Battery recycling is a daunting task,” says Mareels.