Arizona Fire Spotlights Difficulties for Energy Storage

Arizona’s largest electrical company installed huge batteries close to neighborhoods with numerous PV panels, hoping to capture a few of the power from the afternoon sun to use in the evening.

Arizona Public Service has been an early follower of battery storage know-how seen as crucial for the broader utilization of renewable energy and a more resilient energy grid.

However, an April fire and blast at a massive battery west of Phoenix that sent eight firefighters and a police officer to the hospital underscored the challenges and dangers that can come up as utilities prepare for the exponential development of the expertise.

With an ongoing investigation and no public word on the fire’s reason, the incident is being intently watched by energy storage analysts and advocates.

APS has erected a group of engineers, safety specialists and first responders to work with the plant, battery-maker Fluence, and others to carefully remove and inspect the 378 modules that contain the McMicken battery program and learn about what occurred.

APS installed the 2 MW batteries at a substation in Surprise, outside Phoenix, in 2017 and one other near the Festival Ranch improvement in nearby Buckeye. They support the branch to handle fluctuations from clouds or the setting sun in areas with numerous rooftop PV panels.

These batteries are small compared to the 850 MW that APS has vowed to construct by 2025. Power storage and batteries especially are projected to take off as renewable power prices decreased and states mandate a growing share of energy must come from renewable sources like wind and solar, that are subject to the impulses of Mother Nature.

On the existing electrical grid, energy is used as it’s generated; the supply and demand should match, or prospects will face blackouts or power rolls.