“The explosion ruptured the dusk settling over the desert in Surprise, Arizona. For hours, smoke had poured from a metal shed packed with lithium-ion batteries at a small electric substation. The batteries were tied to the electric grid, and somehow they had caught fire.
Firefighters searching for the source of the smoke opened the shed door, and minutes later gases seeping from damaged batteries caused the explosion. Body-camera footage from the scene showed a firefighter dazed and breathing heavily as blood ran down his forehead. Two of the four people injured had to be airlifted to a hospital.
It’s likely that few people living near the substation, on the edge of suburban Phoenix, realized the facility held the kind of supersized batteries seen as key to unleashing renewable energy upon power grids and helping solve the climate change crisis.
Plunging prices and intensifying efforts to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions have touched off a battery boom. Energy companies are plugging more battery packs into the grid as a way to store renewable power and replace fossil-fuel plants. Megaprojects are becoming the norm. Last year, regulators approved a battery installation in New York City that will be big enough to power 250,000 homes for eight hours. Developers near Las Vegas plan a similarly huge system to store energy from a 690-megawatt solar plant.”
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Baker, David and Mark Chediak. Insurance Journal 29 January 2020.