Investigation of the fire at Tesla’s Victorian Big Battery Completed

The investigation of the fire at Tesla’s Victorian Big Battery is over. Now the public has access to a technical report based on the conclusions of specialist investigators.

May 12, 2022. By News Bureau

Last July, a liquid coolant leak produced thermal runaway in battery cells, resulting in a fire at the Victorian Big Battery, a 300MW/450MWh facility in Australia.

The public has access to a technical report based on the conclusions of specialist investigators, written by Fisher Engineering and the Energy Safety Response Group (ESRG). The fire broke out when the system was being built, destroying two of the 212 Tesla Megapack battery energy storage system (BESS) units.

In September, once the situation was stabilised and authorities allowed the site for construction and pre-commissioning tests, developer Neoen and Tesla brought the Victorian Big Battery online in December, and it has been participating in the National Electricity Market since then.

The technical report was first delivered to stakeholders in January of this year and is now available to the general public. This was the first type of problem that affected Tesla Megapacks, according to the report.

In 2021, the US-based EV, solar, and BESS company deployed roughly 4GWh of energy storage globally. It has stated a lofty goal for this decade's deployments, predicting that it might reach 1,500GWh of annual installations by 2030.

On July 30, 2021, a single pre-manufactured 3MWh Megapack unit caught fire, spreading to a neighboring Megapack. The fire burned itself out over a six-hour period after it stopped spreading. The manufacturer advised emergency personnel to let burning Megapacks consume themselves while monitoring other potential exposures at the scene.

No injuries were reported to site staff, first responders, or the general public, and the multi-team inquiry began almost immediately, on August 3.

When Energy Safe Victoria, the state's regulatory agency, allowed the project to start testing and commissioning, the inquiry essentially corroborated what they found, but added more facts as they become available.

On the day in question, site staff spotted smoke coming from a Megapack around 10 a.m., and when emergency crews came, they set up a perimeter around the unit and administered water to cool it down. The fire then moved to the Megapack next to it.

According to Fisher and ESRG, arcing within the battery modules was caused by a leak in the first Megapack's liquid cooling system. The heat generated caused thermal runaway in the battery cells.
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