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Fire chiefs warn of explosion risks at proposed energy storage site

21 July 2023

Concerns have been raised about explosion risks at a planned battery storage facility near Wakefield in Yorkshire, UK. In a report produced by West Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Authority (WYFRA), fire chiefs highlighted the potential risks posed by the site, including a densely populated area being exposed to a vapour cloud.

One of Harmony Energy's UK sites - Image: Harmony Energy
One of Harmony Energy's UK sites - Image: Harmony Energy

The battery site, which is being built by Harmony Energy, would store energy produced by renewable sources. The planned site would have around 60 containers with lithium-ion batteries inside. The company said its technology was tested to National Fire Protection Association standards.

In the WYFRA report however, the fire authority said that it was concerning that no specific information in relation to fire risk and explosion has been incorporated into the application. Senior Fire Protection Officer Chris Kemp says in the report that the risks of vapour cloud, thermal runaway and explosion are real and becoming more common.

Kemp adds that should a fire or explosion happen, the fire service would be left with two options – let it burn or use around 5.5 million litres of water over 24 hours to extinguish the fire. If a fire was left to burn, a chain reaction would occur across the site and also lead to a vapour/smoke plume spreading across a nearby populated area.

A spokesperson for Harmony Energy told journalists that the company operates over 500MWs of energy storage systems in the UK and that the sites would be uninsurable if there were questions over their safety. The spokesperson added that the company is currently consolidating fire safety information to share with local authorities.

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