Lithium-ion battery goes offline due to overheating, for the second time

It's bad news for the world's largest lithium-ion battery.
Loukia Papadopoulos
Moss Landing Power PlantWikimedia Commons

An energy storage facility owned by Vistra Energy in Moss Landing, California houses the largest lithium-ion battery in the world. The only problem is the battery packs keep on melting.

Last weekend on February 13, the facility experienced another meltdown, the second in five months, according to local broadcaster KSBW

What could be going wrong?

Battery packs melted

It all began when four fire trucks responded to a fire alarm at the energy company's site. When they arrived the fire had been subdued by the facility’s fire suppression system.

There were no flames but ten lithium-ion battery packs had been melted. Vistra then released the following statement on February 15:

"Late on February 13, the early detection safety system activated in the 100-megawatt Phase II building at our Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility. As is our protocol at all of our facilities, we contacted off-site emergency response out of an abundance of caution. The building’s systems contained the event without the need for outside assistance. There are no injuries to personnel."

Fragile systems

The previous fire had occurred in September and had set off sprinklers that damaged around 7,000 batteries. The incidents illustrate how fragile battery storage systems are.

Lithium-ion batteries not only ignite easily but also produce fires that are difficult to contain because water does not put them out. Vistra added that it was now looking further into the new incident.

"An investigation is underway to determine what caused the safety system to activate. While this is in its very early stages, what we know is the water-based suppression system released water that contacted some batteries. There is early evidence that water hoses leaked and that some batteries shorted, creating smoke in the building, similar to what we observed with the September incident at our 300-MW Phase I facility next door," added the company in its statement.

In the meantime, the facility remains offline to avoid any future fire incidents while the problem is worked out.

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