Proper Battery Thermal Management Provides Safety for BESS
In our move to create a more sustainable U.S. power grid, battery energy storage systems(BESS) technology promises to be a massive game changer. BESS aims to offset the variable nature of renewables like solar and wind while also providing surplus energy storage that can be used to minimize outages.
However, like any energy system, BESS also has its safety risks. This guide will discuss how BESS operators can provide proper battery thermal management in their facilities and outline the current and future technologies making BESS safer and more reliable.
Battery Thermal Management of BESS is of Vital Importance
While the inclusion of high-capacity BESS is not only promising but necessary to fully realize an energy-efficient power grid, adopting BESS does come with risks. One concern is overheating caused by thermal runaway. Thermal runaway occurs when a damaged battery begins to emit excessive heat, which creates a chain reaction throughout a BESS. The heat spreads to adjacent battery cells; it creates a feedback loop affecting the entire system.
Thermal runaway can stem from several issues, but the most common include:
· Improper temperature control
· Cell defects
· Damaged cells from construction
· Pushing BESS beyond safe parameters
· Neglecting routine maintenance
Installing thermal runaway detection hardware, like Li-Ion Tamer, can help identify potential faults in a battery cell to control excessive heat at the earliest signs. In the event of rampant thermal runaway, if heat is left unchecked, it can result in extensive damage to BESS, fire or explosions. These disasters are eliminated by rapidly cooling affected cells or separating the cells from the rest of the system to allow the reaction to continue in a safe location.
For this reason, it’s imperative to take a proactive approach to mitigate the effects of overheating wherever possible.
Types of Battery Thermal Management
Since thermal runaway poses a risk to BESS – and, more importantly, worker safety – proactive battery thermal management processes are needed to maintain BESS safety at all costs. Processes include:
· Extensive emergency response protocols
· Gas and fire detection
· Explosion prevention
· Fire suppression
Beyond that, incorporating battery cells with effective cooling technology can limit overheating in BESS projects. Two standard cooling systems widely used in the market air-cooled and liquid-cooled.
Air-cooled batteries are currently the most popular cooling solution for BESS. This process combines strategic ventilation and HVAC placement to provide direct cooling to cells. While this solution is efficient,it also requires additional energy to run the HVAC system, which increases costs. In addition, ambient temperatures can drastically affect air-cooled systems' efficacy.
Liquid-cooled systems surround battery cells with liquid to cool and manage thermal runaway. While this technology is not the most widelyadopted, liquid-cooled systems are becoming far more popular due to several benefits:
· Less energy is required to run these systems
· Better overall cooling
· Less affected by ambient temperatures
· Safer design
New Advancements in Battery Systems
In addition to proactive safety procedures and cooling systems, new battery technology on the horizon is looking to make BESS even safer.
Companies like EnerVenue are looking to build a gigawatt-scale nickel Hydrogen battery that can work in temperatures as high as 140°F. These batteries also feature longer lifespans, up to 30,000 cycles. In addition, since they do not include lithium, there is no thermal runaway risk.
EnerVenue states that their nickel-hydrogen batteries are not made with toxic materials and aim to make them 100% recyclable.
Flow Battery Innovation
Flow batteries are electrochemical cells that harness the oxidation states of elements to store or discharge energy. An electrolyte containing one or more components “flow” through the battery system, allowing it to store or discharge electricity.
Flow batteries offer significant benefits over lithium-ion batteries, including a significantly lower risk of thermal runaway since the battery's electrolytes comprise primarily of water.
There are several types of flow battery technologies that have either already been developed or are currently in development. They include:
· Membrane less
· Nano-network connected
· And more
With over 25 years of expert solutions for critical power systems, Comrent’s experienced team helps ensure BESS systems stay safe and efficient. We provide a complimentary consultation to review your project and customize power testing solutions to meet your facility’s unique needs. We’ll also identify any critical needs you may have to develop a thorough safety plan for your BESS facility. Contact us today.