Banks of lithium-ion batteries are being quietly and stealthily installed near you. They are being installed to the point of secretly throughout Ireland to compensate for the irregularity of electricity production from the unreliability of renewable sources such as wind and solar. Public consultation was muted and carefully orchestrated in a ‘targeted’ fashion to generate favourable feedback predominantly from self interested parties of the Battery and electricity industry stakeholders. The dangers and the consequences of accidents were muted and ignored for this a highly toxic storage system with no long term risk analysis. This approach inevitably results in regulatory legislation that is industry driven, completely biased and skewed in favour of Battery Storage Technology and Battery Energy Storage Systems. This is all about a highly toxic storage system already installed or about to be installed near you.
What is battery storage?
Battery storage technologies are essential to speeding up the present frenzy for the replacement of fossil fuels with renewable energy sources. Battery storage systems will play an increasingly pivotal role between green energy supplies attempt to respond to electricity supply stability and peak demands. Battery storage, or battery energy storage systems (BESS), are devices that enable energy from unreliable renewables, like solar and wind, to be stored and then released when the need for power arises.
Lithium-ion batteries, such as those used in small scale devices such as mobile phones and electric cars, are also the dominant technology for large scale electricity storage to enable electricity grids to provide a reliable and constant supply of renewable energy. The required technological up scaling from powering a mobile phone to powering a town or city with lithium-ion batteries comes with considerable problems that have yet to be fully resolved.
Why is battery storage important and what are its benefits?
Battery storage technology is a key component in the storage of electricity where green energy, sources such as solar or wind which at best are intermittent suppliers of electricity and are completely depending on wind and sunshine.
Every day National Grid engineers must match supply with demand. Managing these peaks and troughs becomes highly challenging when the target is to achieve net zero carbon production by replacing fossil fuel with solar and wind sources which cannot provide a reliable, steady supply of energy unless huge batteries are used for storage.
Large Scale Battery Storage
A large number of batteries installed together, known as grid-scale battery storage (Large Scale Battery Storage), are designed to act as a large-scale power storage system that can be connected into the grids electricity transmission system. This use of batteries for ‘renewable’ energy management is expected to increase in multiples over the coming years with the increasing dependence on ‘renewables’ with a corresponding acceleration of the increase in the scale of risk.
How a battery storage system works
Large scale battery energy storage systems are technologically more complex and more advanced than domestic batteries. They are also fraught with more potential problems that could result in large scale devastating consequences including considerable loss of life. Those battery storage systems are designed to be charged by wind and solar electricity which are unreliable and intermittent electricity producers. To compensate for this, software algorithms are used to coordinate energy production, storage and distribution. Those computerised systems decide when to store and when to release energy in order to provide a stable and constant electricity supply.
What renewable energy storage systems are being developed?
Lithium-ion batteries are today’s electricity suppliers and grid manager’s electricity storage systems of choice. These batteries were developed in the 1970’s in the UK and were first used commercially by Sony in 1991. Those are currently considered to be the most economically viable energy storage solution for solar and wind generated electricity. That is if you exclude safety concerns.
Batteries use chemicals to store and release energy on demand. Lithium-ion is the battery of choice used to store ‘renewable’ sources of electricity to enable its intermittent energy to be stored during times of low demand and released at peak demand times. The advantage of those batteries is they can respond faster than other storage technologies, and maintain grid stability by turning on and off in fractions of a second. The next decade will see the widespread distribution and instillation of massive and very toxic Lithium-ion batteries for electricity storage. This will be the proving time for the safety and durability or otherwise of those batteries consisting of a new technology containing very toxic materials with no long term track record in those areas.
Your Neighbourhood Toxic Time Bomb
There is no reliable risk assessment available for what could be a very toxic time bomb installed in your neighbourhood. Lithium- ion battery energy storage technology is a highly hazardous untested technology and in the event of a fire or an explosion caused by ‘internal’ factors such as technology failure which becomes inevitable over time or ‘external’ factors such as a lightning strike or a collision would have highly hazardous consequences on the environment.
Exposed to the resulting fallout of poisonous gasses spreading out over tens of kilometres per installed Battery Energy Storage System would have immediate and long term environmental devastating consequences including death. It would be as dangerous and hazardous as a small scale dirty nuclear explosion with immediate devastating as well as long term consequences over a wide area. If you think this is unlikely or improbable look at the hazards of batteries you are not being told about.
According to Energy Ireland, “over 2.5GW of grid-scale battery storage is currently in development in Ireland. Six lithium-ion battery projects are currently operational in the country, four of which were added in 2021.
The operational use of the installed capacity of grid-scale battery storage was displayed in May 2021, when the frequency of Ireland’s electricity grid dropped below normal operating range. Two of the country’s six large-scale battery storage projects were called into service which injected power into the network and stabilising it. The 11MW Battery Energy Storage System at Kilathmoy Co Kerry commissioned in 2020 is an electro-chemical battery energy storage project uses lithium-ion as its storage technology. Irelands first grid-scale battery energy storage system (BESS) project, and the 26MW Kelwin-2 system, both built by Norwegian power company Statkraft, responded to the event, which was the longest under-frequency event in recent years. The electricity grid went out of bounds of 49.9Hz – 50.1Hz for more than 14 minutes.
This energy storage battery system is new in Ireland but despite that and with breakneck speed the 2020 goal of 40 per cent renewable electricity and energy storage project developers have been successful in winning contracts in EirGrid’s DS3 market. The DS3 has procured 14 different network ancillary services under a fixed tariff regime, although it is due to expire in three years. However, demand for grid service assets such as battery storage is likely to multiply, necessitating the provision of a DS3 type scheme from 2024 onwards.
A pipeline of over 2.5GW of grid-scale battery projects has now emerged in Ireland, with capacity projections increasing by 25 per cent in recent years. Over 75 per cent of this pipeline is made up of standalone projects, but increased interest in the possibility of co-location with solar and wind projects has been reported since 2018, although these are of a smaller in capacity.
The largest part of the pipeline in Ireland is made up of projects larger than 20MW, the majority of them standalone. The DS3 scheme has so far favoured larger projects, with two 30MW projects and one 50MW securing DS3 Volume Capped Contracts in 2019. By the end of 2021, there is projected to be 350MW operational on the market.
A further group of projects, totalling circa 250MW have both planning permission and grid connection contracts, is ready to progress, with the potential for their construction in either 2021 or 2022. The largest category of projects are those with planning consented, totalling over 1.4GW in operational capacity. Planning for battery storage projects is a typically shorter process than the equivalent for wind and solar projects, with the next step for those with planning consent an application to the ESB or EirGrid for grid connection.
The ESB states that it “aims to develop a pipeline of projects to deliver large scale batteries as well as additional flexible enabling technologies” and has so far announced the development of its first major battery projects at existing sites in Inchicore, Dublin and Aghada, Cork. These projects will deliver 60 MWh at Inchicore and 38 MWh at Aghada Generating Station, with the ESB also planning to develop further battery storage projects in South Wall and Poolbeg, both in Dublin.”
They are ploughing ahead in a great hurry with no apparent concern for safety or the long term sustainability of operating in such uncharted water. They are operating in a manner like an accident in a great hurry to happen. Keep out of their way.
What you are not told about batteries;
- Batteriesare not as eco friendly as we are led to believe because they have an incredibly high embedded and toxic carbon emissions footprint.
- Battery Energy StorageSystems are highly inefficient and lose about 50% of provided energy in the conversion process from electricity to chemical storage and back to electricity.
- Battery Energy StorageSystems are at best an experimental highly hazardous technology. It is for good reason that Lithium Ion batteries are prohibited in checked in luggage on aircraft and by most post and courier services.
- Currently there only exists an extinguisher on the market to extinguish the fire of a Lithium Ion battery the size of a laptop battery. There is no way to contain or subdue a larger battery fire.
- Lithium Ion Batteriescan and do ‘auto combust’ leading to thermal runaway that then explodes very quickly reaching temperatures of 1000°C and releasing large quantities of highly hazardous and lethal toxic chemicals.
- There are zero internationally recognised standards for the fire suppression and fire extinguishing of Electric Vehicles and larger scale Battery Energy Storage
- Increasing the energy density storagecapacity of a battery module increases the hazardous risk and the hazardous consequences.
- Most Life Cycle Analyses of Batteriesomit the end of life waste management of the batteries. Recycling Lithium Ion batteries is a highly hazardous and very expensive process the economics and health consequences of which are being ignored.
- Battery Energy StorageSystems (BESS’s) are primarily being proposed in an attempt to stabilise grid frequency that has been and is being destabilised by unreliable and intermittent ‘renewables’ in the energy mix of electricity generation.
- The battery impact on the environmental viability of ‘renewables’ and their so-called eco friendly footprint makes the ‘renewable’ argument unsustainable.
- BESS’s are themselves highly susceptible to grid frequency excursions outside a stable 50Hz. Such an event could cause a BESS to auto combust and explode with devastating consequences.
- They are also an ideal terrorist target with a huge explosive and fallout impact not to mention heavy reliance on the batteries to keep the lights on.
- Battery storagetechnology is incredibly unsustainable and very expensive especially in terms of the revenue required to support them. South Korea has presently 80% of the global market.
- South Korea recently published an investigative report following 23 explosions of recently installed battery energy storagesystems in South Korea. It is hardly surprising that the report pointed the blame at the installers and operators rather than focus on the serious flaws inherent in the battery storage
- The manufacture of Lithium Ion batterieshas quickly become big business without any safeguards.
Ireland and the European Union should be putting the safety of its people and its environment first. Instead it is clear from the public consultation to date in Ireland that policy making and the development of a new ‘Battery Act’ without safety considerations being properly addressed is being led predominantly by Battery Industry stakeholders and also by the design of carefully ‘targeted’ public consultation.
Sticking Plaster Time Bombs
The chemistry in Lithium Ion batteries is very unstable and highly toxic and therefore they should be more accurately described as ‘toxic battery bombs’. Battery Energy Storage Systems were rushed into production as an emergency sticking plaster solution for the instability of the intermittent ‘renewable’ energy industry.
This is an industry that was brought into being:
- Without any proper comprehensive analysis.
- Without any cost benefit analysis, environmental impact analysis,
- Without any health impact analysis, any risk analysis etc.
- Without any long term stability analysis
- Without long term toxicity and recyclable analysis
- Lithium-ion batteries are a serious safety hazard since they contain a highly flammable electrolyte and may become pressurized and an explosive risk if they become damaged.
- A battery cell charged too quickly could cause a short circuit, leading to explosions and fires.
A Li-ion battery fire can be started due to:
- Thermal abuse, e.g. poor cooling or an external fire
- Electrical abuse, e.g. overcharge or an external short circuit
- Mechanical abuse, e.g. penetration or a crash
- Internal short circuit, e.g. due to manufacturing flaws or aging
Testing Standards and Risks
Because of these risks, testing standards have to be more stringent than those for acid-electrolyte batteries. They require both a broader range of test conditions and additional battery-specific tests. There are also shipping limitations imposed by safety regulators. There have been battery-related recalls by many companies including the 2016 Samsung Galaxy Note 7 recall for battery fires.
Lithium-ion Battery Dangers
- Lithium-ion batteries contain a flammable liquid electrolyte. As a result a faulty battery can cause a serious fire.
- Faulty chargers can affect the safety of the battery because they can destroy the battery’s protection circuit.
- Charging at temperatures below 0 °C, results in the negative electrode of the cells getting plated with pure lithium, which can compromise the safety of the whole pack.
- Short-circuiting a battery will cause the cell to overheat and possibly to catch fire. Smoke from thermal runaway in a Li-ion battery is both flammable and toxic. The fire energy content (electrical + chemical) of cobalt-oxide cells is about 100 to 150 kJ/(A·h), most of it chemical.
About the year 2010, large lithium-ion batteries were introduced in place of other chemistries to power systems on some aircraft;
- as of January 2014, there had been at least four serious lithium-ion battery fires, or smoke, on the Boeing 787 passenger aircraft, introduced in 2011, which did not cause crashes but had the potential to do so.
- UPS Airlines Flight 6 crashed in Dubai after its payload of batteries spontaneously ignited.
- To reduce fire hazards, research projects are intended to develop non-flammable electrolytes meanwhile the fire risk remains.
Damaging and overloading
If a lithium-ion battery is damaged, crushed, or is subjected to a higher electrical load without having overcharge protection problems arise.
- An external short circuit can trigger a battery explosion.
- If overheated or overcharged, Li-ion batteries may suffer thermal runawayand cell rupture. In extreme cases this can lead to leakage, explosion or fire.
To reduce these risks, many lithium-ion cells (and battery packs) contain fail-safe circuitry that disconnects the battery when its voltage is outside the safe range of 3–4.2 V per cell, or when overcharged or discharged. Lithium battery packs, whether constructed by a vendor or the end-user, without effective battery management circuits are susceptible to these issues. Poorly designed or implemented battery management circuits also may cause problems; it is difficult to be certain that any particular battery management circuitry is properly implemented. Large scale lithium batteries are still an unknown quantity with unknown hazards.
Large Lithium Fires can’t be Put Out
Large lithium batteries used as backup power supplies to wind turbines and solar panels have combusted with no way to fight the ferocious fires. Fire crews took more than three days to extinguish a blaze at the 13-ton Tesla Big Battery in Victoria, Australia. Because ordinary fire suppression methods could not be used on the 300-megawatt power source, crews had to let the blaze burn itself out where all the authorities could do was monitor the toxicity of the air quality in the vicinity.
- In October 2004, Kyocera Wireless recalled approximately 1 million mobile phone batteries to identify counterfeits.
- In December 2005, Dell recalled approximately 22,000 laptop computer batteries, and 4.1 million in August 2006.
- In 2006, approximately 10 million Sony batteries used in Dell, Sony, Apple, Lenovo, Panasonic, Toshiba, Hitachi, Fujitsu and Sharp laptops were recalled. The batteries were found to be susceptible to internal contamination by metal particles during manufacture. Under some circumstances, these particles could pierce the separator, causing a dangerous short circuit.
- In March 2007, computer manufacturer Lenovo recalled approximately 205,000 batteries at risk of explosion.
- In August 2007, mobile phone manufacturer Nokia recalled over 46 million batteries at risk of overheating and exploding. One such incident occurred in the Philippines involving a Nokia N91, which used the BL-5C battery.
- In September 2016, Samsung recalled approximately 2.5 million Galaxy Note 7 phones after 35 confirmed fires. The recall was due to a manufacturing design fault in Samsung’s batteries which caused internal positive and negative poles to touch.
- In 2020 Ford was forced to recall 20,000 hybrids and soon after, BMW recalled26,700 vehicles due to battery defects that could lead to fires.
- In August 2021 General Motors announced a second recallof Chevrolet Bolt EV’s and EUV’s manufactured from 2019 to 2022 model years in order to fix a defect in two of the lithium-ion battery modules that led to fires. This follows on the heels of a previous recall of 69,000 older vehicles that will replace all five of the battery modules.
The culprit in nearly all EV fire cases is the lithium-ion batteries that power them which burn with extraordinary ferocity. Adding to the fire and heat danger posed by these events is the extreme toxicity of the fumes generated. According to one study, these fumes may in some circumstances be a much larger threat than the fire, especially in confined environments where people are present.
The Dirty Business of Blood Energy
The extraction process for the production lithium–ion batteries is reminiscent of the mining of blood diamonds which in this case involves the mining or extraction of lithium, nickel, and cobalt, the manufacture of solvents, and mining by-products that present significant environmental and health hazards.
Lithium extraction can be fatal to aquatic life due to water pollution. It causes:
- surface water contamination
- drinking water contamination
- respiratory problems
- ecosystem degradation and landscape damage
- It also leads to unsustainable water consumption in arid regions amounting to1.9 million litres per ton of lithium.
- Massive by-product generation of lithium extraction also presents unsolved problems, such as the accumulation of large amounts of magnesium and lime waste.
Mining Locations and the Carbon Footprint
Lithium mining takes place in North and South America, Asia, South Africa, Australia, and China. Cobalt for Li-ion batteries is largely mined in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
Manufacturing a kg of Li-ion battery takes about 67 mega joule (MJ) of energy. The global warming potential of lithium-ion battery manufacture depends entirely on the energy source used in the mining and manufacturing operations. This is difficult to estimate but one 2019 study estimated 73 kg CO2e/kWh. Eventual effective recycling if it ever happens can reduce the carbon footprint of the production significantly.
The Human Impact of Blood Battery Production
Extraction of raw materials for lithium-ion batteries presents many dangers to local people, especially land-based indigenous populations. Cobalt sourced from the Democratic Republic of the Congo is often mined by workers including children using basic hand tools with few if any safety precautions. This results in frequent injuries and deaths. Pollution from these mines is exposing people to toxic chemicals that health officials believe to cause both birth defects and breathing difficulties. Human rights activists have alleged and investigative journalism have confirmed that child labour is used extensively in these mines.
A study of relationships between lithium extraction companies and indigenous peoples in Argentina indicated that the state may not have protected indigenous peoples’ right to free prior and informed consent, and that extraction companies generally controlled community access to information and set the terms for discussion of the projects and benefit sharing.
Development of the Thacker Pass lithium mine in Nevada, USA has met with protests and lawsuits from several indigenous tribes who have said they were not provided free prior and informed consent and that the project threatens cultural and sacred sites.
Links between resource extraction and missing and murdered indigenous women have also prompted local communities to express concerns that the project will create risks to indigenous women. Protestors have been occupying the site of the proposed mine since January, 2021.
The virtue signalling aspiration for the global transition to ‘net zero emissions’ designed to lead to the formation of a renewable energy ecosystem is creating a whole new series of problems from ‘Time Bomb Storage Systems to human rights abuses reminiscent if the production of blood diamonds. Are you driving a ‘blood energy’ car or is your house powered by environmentally dirty ‘blood energy’ batteries? If so, think again. Electric cars are environmentally filthy. I include the following to show the environmental effect of lithium mining.