Wärtsilä sets new benchmark for energy storage fire safety testing

17 August 2023

Wärtsilä has reported completion of rigorous large-scale fire safety testing of its GridSolv Quantum energy storage system, claiming that the “programme has set a new standard for fire safety testing in the energy storage industry.”

Above: Wartsila has fire safety as a major priority for its GridSolv Quantum ESS, complying with UL 9540A unit-level performance requirements and designed to meet stringent safety and quality standards. Photo © Wartsila

The large-scale fire testing exceeds the mandatory testing requirements of existing testing standards (such as UL 9540A) and was designed to simulate a worst-case scenario. Overseen by Wartsila’s fire safety partners and stakeholders – including Fire & Risk Alliance, Energy Safety Response Group, and Energy Security Agency – the testing was completed at a facility in Piqua, Ohio, and run by the Energy Safety Response Group.

The testing involved intentionally igniting a fire within a Wartsila’s GridSolv Quantum to reveal important information about how the system would react in the highly unlikely event of a catastrophic failure and demonstrate that, even in the worst-case scenario, a fire in a GridSolv Quantum unit would not spread to neighbouring enclosures.

Under the test conditions, a fire was ignited within a ventilated unit and was allowed to free-burn for more than eight hours. The results showed that a fire would remain contained within the initiating unit, doors would remain closed, and the fire would not result in unit-to-unit propagation.

This kind of bespoke, self-directed testing programme assesses the unit as an integrated system to provide a more complete understanding of fire risk than what could be achieved through mandatory testing alone, which largely assesses individual components. The testing helps ensure that authorities having jurisdiction (AHJs), the fire service, and other stakeholders have a complete understanding of the potential risk.

As part of the testing, the Fire and Risk Alliance (FRA) captured plume gas data to assess the potential environmental impact of the smoke emitted by an ESS fire. FRA’s analysis concluded that the smoke from an ESS fire is no worse in terms of environmental impact than fires involving normal consumer products.

“Volunteering to complete testing beyond the minimum requirements provides confidence to key stakeholders that risks are being actively managed,” said Darrell Furlong, director of energy storage product management and hardware engineering at Wartsila.

“Wartsila’s bespoke testing is the ideal way to demonstrate that a fire will not propagate between ESS enclosures or from string to string. This outcome illustrates that with minimal or no response from the fire service or other responders, a fully involved fire is unlikely to spread beyond the initiating unit”, said Noah Ryder, managing partner, Fire & Risk Alliance.

“As the risks posed by energy storage systems are better understood by AHJs, the desire to incorporate even more data into the safety analysis requires greater scale and evolution in testing. Test results such as those from large-scale fire tests help inform this process, which overall allows for better analysis and satisfaction of code requirements,” said Nick Warner, principal, Energy Safety Response Group. “In the case of Wartsila, once the system was fully-involved [fully on fire], the risk to neighbouring units was minimal and could be managed by a well-trained fire department with proper planning and support.”

Wartsila says that “by design”, GridSolv Quantum “solves many fundamental safety challenges such as thermal management, fire detection, short circuit handling and interconnection communication.”

It was certified to UL 9540 by Eurofins MET Labs in April 2022 and CSA in March 2023 and found to meet UL 9540A unit-level performance requirements in February 2023.

GridSolv Quantum uses LiFePO4, which is “less prone to fire risk than other lithium-iron chemistries, adding an extra layer of safety.”

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