November 15, 2023: A new report to help planning chiefs prepare for the safe expansion of energy storage systems in the US has been released by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).
The report, Energy Storage in Local Zoning Ordinances, published yesterday, offers “real-world examples” of how communities have dealt with BESS projects to date — including dealing with risks of system failures and fires.
Emergency response plans are needed to deal with what the report says are the “rare event” of fires. For example, whether water will be used, whether containment of run-off will be needed and how to combat potential risks to nearby homes from smoke.
While lithium ion has become the dominant battery technology, the report says the energy density of lithium batteries is one of the technology’s key benefits and also its greatest risk.
PNNL energy adviser and report co-author Jeremy Twitchell said it is unreasonable to expect local planners to become “energy experts” in the short time they are given to consider BESS project applications.
“This report provides local planners with objective information that can help them fill in those gaps by identifying questions they can ask and conditions they can craft to assure their communities receive the benefits of energy storage while being protected from its risks.”
Figures published in December 2022 by the US Energy Information Administration indicated developers and power plant owners plan to expand utility-scale battery storage capacity in the country to 30GW by the end of 2025.