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Co-Located Renewable Energy Projects Still Face Fire Risks

Despite improvements in battery fire risk management, co-located renewable energy projects remain half-exposed to fire risk.

Despite improvements in battery fire risk management, co-located renewable energy projects remain half-exposed to fire risk.
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The record-breaking growth of U.S. energy storage deployment in 2023, from 869MW to 3983MW of grid-scale energy, has brought battery risk management into sharper focus. According to a report from Firetrace International, “Double Indemnity: How To Tackle Fire Risk At Co-Located Renewables Projects,” the historic underestimation of solar and wind turbine fires continues to put the future of energy storage co-located with these assets for more efficient energy generation at risk.

The co-location of renewable energy assets is fast-becoming one of the preferred approaches in the transition to clean energy production. American Clean Power reported that the deployment of co-located renewables rose by 90% in 2023. In particular, battery plus solar installations led the way with 10.45GW, and the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) forecasts that these projects account for 81% of new electricity generation capacity this year. To aid this, developers have rightly identified and sought to manage the risk of fire in battery systems.

However, the same level of vigilance is not applied to wind or solar assets, among which batteries are often interspersed on co-located sites; despite the fact that solar and wind infrastructure carry their own fire hazards that could have site-wide consequences in the absence of adequate mitigation strategies. Though less common than battery fire, the report explains that one in 2,000 turbines will experience a catastrophic fire and that solar farm fires are considered to be underreported.

Consequently, co-located renewables projects that fail to apply the same precaution to solar and wind assets that they adopt for battery systems are only managing half of the overall project’s risk of fire. This leaves organizations vulnerable to significant expense in the event of a fire, with battery losses potentially coming to $2M USD and wind turbine losses to $9M USD per individual asset. This is before the added loss of project downtime and the impact of reputational damage.

Managing the fire risk of renewable assets in the U.S. is not as straightforward as it could be. The report outlines that local regulations differ from state to state, meaning that developers cannot rely entirely on in-built fire suppression systems to meet the required safety standards in place. This uncertainty reinforces the importance of project owners conducting their own comprehensive risk assessments across the sites they operate.

‘Double Indemnity’ recommends four steps to reduce a project’s exposure to this threat:

  1. Extending battery system fire precaution to co-located assets onsite.
  2. Independently conducting fire risk assessments of the site.
  3. Establishing familiarity with local fire regulations and installing fire suppression accordingly.
  4. Scheduled testing of the condition of operational assets to assess wear and tear.

To learn more, check out the full report.

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American Clean Power, batteries, Business Resiliency, Co-Located Renewable Energy Systems, energy storage, Fire Regulations, Fire Risk, Fire Risk Assessment, Firetrace, Renewable Energy, Renewable Energy Projects, Reputational Damage, Risk Assessment, U.S. Energy Information Administration

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