Energy

New Fire Protection Regulations for Energy Storage

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Laptops are exploding.  Phones are catching fire in pockets.  Lithium-ion batteries are more dangerous than anyone realized.  So, imagine the risk involved with an energy storage building filled with lithium-ion batteries.

 

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is working on an update for NFPA 855 - the Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems.  The draft is available for public comment and is expected to be completed in 2020.

Related:  FAQ - Battery Energy Storage Facilities + Their Fire Hazards

Nationally, the NFPA 855 update will create a stricter requirement for fire protection of energy storage.  It might also add a cap on size for energy storage in enclosed spaces.  The committee dedicated to this project will "document fire prevention, fire protection, design, construction, installation, commissioning, operation, maintenance, and decommissioning of stationary, mobile, and temporary energy storage systems," according to Energy Storage Systems Staff Liaison Brian J. O'Connor.  

 

The requirements will be more stringent than the current version.

Related:  3 Reasons to Outsource Your Fire Protection Specification Writing

Underwriter's Laboratory (UL) published the first safety standards in 2014, UL 9540.  UL 9540 is the backbone of NFPA and other organization's regulations for energy storage.

According to UtilityDive, "some stakeholders are already taking guidance from NFPA's developing standards.  While the standards are still in draft form, '2020 may be the landing spot for projects that are just starting development today,' said Davion Hill, Energy Storage Leader for the America's.



Wind Turbine Fires are Costing as Much as $2 Mil in Damage: Is NFPA 850 being ignored?

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Karatsu -- A wind turbine near a nuclear power plant caught fire.  This caused serious difficulties for firefighters who had to worry about falling parts.

A nearby resident reported the conflagration at 2:55pm.  One of the turbine blades and the base of the blades caught fire at the wind-generating power plant.  The blaze was extinguished at 6:50am the next morning. 

No one was injured. 

Firefighters had a difficult time fighting the fire.  They were unable to point water at the blades because of falling debris.

The fire is under investigation.

The wind generating power plant has been in operation since 2004.  They sell their energy to Kyushu Electric.

NFPA 850

Wind turbines are part of NFPA 850:  Recommended Practice for Fire Protection for Electric Generating Plants and High Voltage Direct Current Converter Stations, 2010.  Since 2002, 184 wind turbines have been damaged by fire.  This has cost between $750,000 to $2,000,000 each time.

 

What is causing wind turbine fires?

Wind-generated power plant fires start from a number of causes.  The most common is lightning strikes.  Wind turbines are exposed and tall, making them an easy target.

Another cause of fire in wind turbines is mechanical failure or electrical malfunction.  The hundreds of gallons of hydraulic fluid and lubricants fuels the fire.  An added fuel source is internal insulation.

Wind-generating power plants have other high-risk areas too.  Capacitors, transformers, generators, electrical controls, and transmission equipment is also susceptible to fire.

Fire Protection for Wind Turbines

Water-mist systems are an option; however, they have the potential for hurting electrical equipment.  Compressed air foam systems are also used, but the storage needs can be problematic with the remote location of most wind turbines.

Clean agent systems are a good solution.  When discharged, it vaporizes into a colorless, odorless gas.  The suppressant takes up less space to store than other solutions.  It also has a low environmental impact.

While wind-generating power plants have their pros and cons, the fact that it is an environmentally friendly energy solution is bringing more and more wind farms into the energy industry, so properly protecting them from fire needs to become a priority.

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Why do gas turbines need efficient compressors?

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Natural gas power plants need to run efficiently so the plant doesn’t use more of the energy that it produces than necessary.  It takes a lot of energy to run a power plant, but the more energy the power plant uses to run the facility itself, the less it has to sell.  While natural gas power plants use a fair amount of the energy it produces, it would need to use much more energy if their compressors weren’t efficient enough, reducing profits.

 

Gas combustion turbines in natural gas power plants have three elements:

1)      A compressor draws air into the engine.  It becomes pressurized and goes into the combustion chamber.

2)     The combustion system has a ring of fuel injectors that inject fuel into combustion chambers where it mixes with the pressurized air.  Both the gas (fuel) and the air have been compressed.  They are then heated to 2,000+ degrees and sent to the turbine section.

3)     In the turbine section, the gas/air mixture expands, rotating the blades inside the turbine.  The rotating blades serve two purposes:  pulling in more air and spinning a generator, which produces electricity.

By having efficient compressors in a gas turbine, natural gas power plants can produce more energy while using less.  This increases their production and their profit.

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