Meandering
Thoughts

  Catastrophic Thermal Runaway  
  From Clearway Energy's Batteries 
  Threatens Newberry Springs  


Batteries and inverters of Clearway Energy's Daggett Solar Power project are lined up like sitting ducks in rows north of Silver Valley Road (road at the bottom of the image) and west of Minneola Road. Click to enlarge.


 
Posted July 1, 2024
Newberry Springs Community Alliance
by Ted Stimpfel


    Lithium-ion batteries and inverters at industrial solar facilities have a relatively safe reputation but they do fail. When a lithium-ion battery fails, it fails in a big way!

Hot Stuff!

    Lithium-ion thermal runaway fires burn extremely hot. Depending on the cell components, as a lithium battery fails, the chemicals inside create an incredible amount of heat.

    Approaching 300°F, the heat generated inside a battery will generally exceed the heat dissipation capacity. This will lead to an extremely rapid and self-sustaining temperature rise. This is a thermal runaway. A chemical reaction of increasing temperature and pressure (as if on steroids) that escalates to a fire of 1100°F to 1700°F... or an explosion. At such temperatures, lithium fires can spread fast and they are incredibly difficult to extinguish.

  "Lithium-ion battery fires are often self-sufficient and continue to burn without access to additional oxygen. This renders firefighting systems that rely on oxygen deprivation less effective. They may also continue to generate high amounts of heat following fire-extinction and are at risk of re-ignition." - BOAT International

    Lithium-ion battery fires are prone to reigniting because the lithium salts in the battery are self-oxidizing, which means that they can't be "starved out" like a traditional fire.

Ignition

    Lithium-ion batteries can fail if they are overheated when charging, if overcharged, if the ambient temperature gets too hot, or too cold, have a short, manufacturing defect, a malfunction, improper installation, poor management, a puncture, multiple over discharges followed by a charge, high moisture content, or with industrial installations, there is a mechanical failure with the battery's climate control cabinet.

    The Clearway Energy's Daggett batteries are unmanned. They are monitored electronically somewhere in the world. Should a battery fail, there is nothing to stop it.

Intensity

    An industrial lithium battery fire is intense. The extinguishing practice is to dowse the fire with water to cool the intense heat being released. This is to prevent the heat from affecting adjacent batteries. The practice is to allow the battery to burn itself out as water and foam don't extinguish. Unfortunately, runoff water can cause power to arc flash to other batteries and the contaminated water can also impact the water table.

Toxic Fumes

    Thermal runaway fires often take multiple days to control and a massive amount of constant water is necessary for containment. This is being discussed because industrial burning lithium batteries emit toxic fumes that can threaten life downwind during a thermal runaway.

    During a 2024 solar battery fire in Southern California (Otay Mesa), toxic fumes were mostly contained within a building. A fire created hole in the roof allowed some fumes to vent. A lack of winds allowed the toxic fumes to rise overhead and to be widely dispersed.

    With Clearway Energy's Daggett project, Clearway did not go to the expense of special containment buildings. So, in the event of a thermal runaway, Clearway Energy will have the downwind population almost immediately impacted. This has created fear, anxiety, and is a part of the mental anguish that Newberrians suffer as a result of the Clearway Energy project.

    In a shocking dereliction by the County, not only was Clearway Energy allowed to place the lithium-ion batteries in alignment with the Mojave Valley's high winds, but also permitted the batteries and inverters without having any fire hydrants!  Yep! No water.

    Furthermore, there is no dedicated alarm system for the local fire department (nothing at all for the unmanned site) or a neighborhood emergency siren system to alert the local population.


Otay Mesa fire.

Failure to prepare.

    In Daggett and Newberry, the norm is lateral breezes and high winds from west to east. In the event of a battery fire, deadly toxic fumes can be upon the Newberry Springs community within a minute. Far quicker than the 20 to 35-minute best response time of First Responders (once notified). If a thermal runaway occurs at night, the fumes won't be seen and the residents of Newberry Springs can be impacted before any notification goes out.

    And, to be honest, without a high capacity and constant water supply, the local fire departments are helpless except to assist with the injured Newberry victims.

Disaster waiting to happen.

    As shown in the above aerial photograph of the batteries and inverters, the batteries are foolishly aligned from west to east. Should a thermal runaway begin at a western battery, high lateral winds blowing 1100 to 1700°F heat can quickly overheat adjacent downwind batteries and trigger an ignition Domino cascade on all of the batteries aligned to the east.

Could have been prevented.

    The deadly increased levels of carcinogenic silica dust, the risk of toxic lithium battery thermal runaways, and the destruction of our community's environment by the Clearway Energy project could have been prevented if our earlier incompetent Newberry CSD board of directors, Robert Springer, Jack Unger, Paula Deel, Vickie Paulsen, and Larry Clark, would have had the intelligence to kept their promise and fiduciary obligation to maintain the litigation against the County's permitting of the Daggett Solar Power project.

    Instead of blocking the project in court based upon the County Supervisors' illegal approval of the project, the CSD fools surrendered the court fight while holding a Royal Flush winning hand.

    Beginning July 15, 2024, the County's Registrar of Voters will be accepting candidate applications for the Newberry CSD board. Three directors who violated Newberry still hold seats on the board (the first 3 listed above). It is time for some responsible candidates to step forward. The CSD seats of Paula Deel and Margie Roberts will be contested.

    If you do not favor what the Clearway Energy project has brought us, stop reelecting the CSD fools who have delivered it. It is time for some mental competency on the CSD board and from the voters.

    It is time to blow off the worthless CSD chaff.


Inverter fire near Blythe, California

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