Safety was uppermost in people's minds at yesterday evening's information event on proposals to build an energy storage system at Coupar Angus substation.
Local residents have expressed fury and frustration at the failure of Coronation Power to provide answers to safety concerns over their plans to build a 49MW battery array at Coupar Angus substation. The substation is approximately 350 yards from the outskirts of the town.
Edward Adam raised several concerns over lithium ion batteries, including thermal runaway. This, he said, can occur when a fault or excess voltage “lead to high temperatures, gas build-up and potential explosive rupture of the battery cell, resulting in fire and/or explosion.”
Another resident James Harris expressed similar concerns, stating:
“Sounds like a bomb plant in the making and it's purely for profit. Until the safety issues are answered I would say it’s a definite risk.”
James Lindsay Deuchar expressed frustration that no technical expert was on hand to answer questions over battery safety, being told simply that safety was in the hands of Samsung [who will supply the batteries]. “Didn't Samsung mobile phone batteries self combust?”, he commented.
Mr Deuchar also wanted to know about such issues as the length of time it would take to build the facility, traffic management plans, maintenance requirements and the life span of the facility, but again no one was able to provide answers.
One lifelong Coupar resident stated: "If he [the developer] really doesn't know the answer to basic questions such as 'what will happen if it blows up?' shouldn't we all be horrified? But of course, there might be another reason for his reticence. Does he not know - or would he rather not go into that subject too deeply?"
"It has been all too evident from historical events that industry blatantly couldn't care a doaken about the lives of those who live in the vicinity of large installations - otherwise would you or I have ever heard of such places as Bhopal, Chernobyl, Aberfan, Five Mile Island? No; painful experience down the years has taught us that those who hold the power will lie, deny, cover up and pass the buck remorselessly if it will promote their interests."
Company denies risk
The safety information board at yesterday's event stated:
- Lithium-ion battery facilities are equipped with high level monitoring, automatic alarms and fire suppression systems.
- There are also integrated on-board fire detection and suppression systems which will be activated upon detection of smoke or heat. The system has a centrally located internal strobe light/horn to provide indication of smoke and fire detection for personnel inside the container, and three external strobe lights for personnel outside the container. The system uses a gaseous, clean, firefighting agent to suppress fire.
Company director Vickram Mirchandani has since informed us that he intends to provide further information which he hopes will allay people's concerns over the safety of the proposed plant.
Safety research by Coupar Angus News + Information
Coupar Angus News + Info is working with a local resident to make inquiries with independent experts in fire safety of energy storage systems and will publish our findings shortly.
In the meantime our initial research into the safety of large-scale battery arrays has revealed several alarming issues.
- According to a report by the United States Department of Energy, if the temperature of lithium ion batteries rises above 50°C it "can lead to organic electrolyte decomposition and flammable gas."
- A webinar published in the United States in 2016 by the National Fire Protection Association shows (at 1 hour 10 minutes) the effects of a fire in a lithium ion battery storage system. The fire emitted hydrogen fluoride, which is described in Wikipedia as "a highly dangerous gas, forming corrosive and penetrating hydrofluoric acid upon contact with moisture. The gas can also cause blindness by rapid destruction of the corneas."
- In November 2017 a fire in Belgium's first grid-connected battery storage system at the Engie Energy storage Park in Drogenbos near Brussels caused safety concerns - see YouTube video. An article about the fire says that the facility's fire detection and extinguishing systems failed and the fire had to be put out by the fire department.
Making objections to Perth and Kinross Council
The proposal is currently at the public information stage. Vickram Mirchandani, owner of Coronation Power, has stated that he intends to submit a full planning application shortly, at which point the public will be able to submit their objections. The latest information on the planning application is available via Perth and Kinross Council’s planning portal.