Energy Storage Product Development: Embracing Product Safety and Compliance

With sustained investments in the global renewable energy sector and proactive government policies, it is anticipated that by the end of 2030, the installed capacity of energy storage worldwide will reach astonishing TWh levels, primarily relying on lithium-ion battery technology. Therefore, ensuring the success of projects and the safe operation of battery storage systems is essential, addressing safety issues comprehensively and transparently. Energy storage solutions need to be intelligent, economically efficient, and tailor-made for specific application scenarios. However, the true differentiator for such solutions lies in the experienced engineering teams, the highest safety standards, transparency, and in-depth technical expertise dedicated to designing key functionalities at the product and factory levels, maximizing the safety of both personnel and products. A comprehensive understanding of the entire storage system serves as the ideal guide for safety product development in the energy storage industry.

Robust market demand continues to support industry development

The global commitment to achieving carbon neutrality and peak carbon emissions highlights the rapid growth of the new energy industry. Energy storage is crucial for the power system, retaining immense undeveloped potential for future expansion. By examining global demand, many countries have disclosed their overall energy storage goals and supportive policies, indicating clear and explicit medium to long-term plans. It is projected that by the end of 2023, global new energy storage capacity will reach 106GW, skyrocketing to 212GW by 2025. China is expected to reach 40GW of new energy storage capacity by the end of 2023, surging to 85GW by 2025.

global installations new energy storage system

China installations new energy storage system

Battery technology and the highest safety standards

Battery technology is crucial for high-performance energy storage systems. Due to its high energy density and performance, lithium-ion batteries are undoubtedly a popular technology in the coming years. The demand for lithium iron phosphate (LFP) batteries is expected to rise rapidly, with the energy storage industry's demand exceeding 17GWh in 2022, and LFP is expected to become the primary technology for energy storage by 2024. The growth in demand is driven by lower costs, lower supply chain risks, and higher durability and performance. Additionally, their safety advantages over nickel manganese cobalt (NMC) are significant, with higher thermal resilience reducing the risk of thermal runaway due to overcharging, short circuits, or approaching the end of life.

One of the fundamental indicators of safety solutions is compliance. Storage providers increasingly focus on the activities of leading certification bodies to standardize product configurations. While the growing compliance requirements may be viewed as constraints on product development, different national regulations also play a crucial role in project execution. Therefore, researching local regulations, gaining in-depth knowledge, and closely collaborating with all stakeholders of energy storage projects are prerequisites for designing secure storage solutions.

Of course, one of the most notable standards is UL9540A. Unlike most standards, it is not a pass-or-fail certification but a test method for evaluating the spread of thermal runaway fires in battery energy storage systems. Therefore, test results are often referenced in the certification processes of other standards, such as IEC safety requirements for grid-integrated EES systems and electrochemical systems (IEC 62933) or the National Fire Protection Association NFPA855 standard for fixed energy storage system installations. UL has also introduced the Energy Storage System Safety Test Database, where storage system operators can view the thermal runaway propagation test results of battery manufacturers.

Fire prevention and extinguishing for maximum safety

While complying with the latest standards is an excellent guide for developing market-fit product portfolios, energy storage also requires additional fire prevention and extinguishing measures. The golden rule of on-site safety guidance is to ensure personnel safety. Therefore, all equipment should be maintainable without entering the enclosure. If maintenance is required for batteries, control boxes, or thermal management systems, equipment can be accessed externally, with door sensors ensuring automatic system shutdown.

In addition to these common features, various devices have recently been introduced in the industry to enhance energy storage system safety. Fire suppression systems (FSS) ultimately have two purposes: preventing secondary fires from spreading to the batteries and preventing thermal runaway within the battery system. For the first purpose, smoke and heat sensors are now commonplace, with manufacturers providing Novec or aerosol-based solutions as extinguishing agents. Emergency stop functions for shutdown are also part of the basic configuration, triggered either automatically by safety equipment or real-time monitoring by an energy management system (EMS), or manually by operators or emergency personnel. Pre-installed water spray fire suppression systems initiate when smoke or heat signals are detected, but the drawback is the need for external water connections, which may hinder project requirements. On the other hand, active ventilation systems aim to minimize the impact of battery off-gassing. When exceeding predetermined limits, it is triggered by gas sensors and responds by venting the battery gases. Newly introduced products in the market also feature explosion venting panels, serving as passive preventive measures and acting as pressure release points inside the cabinet. However, the latter is considered optional as proper certification renders them redundant. Overall, suitable control devices and advanced software are still required for continuous monitoring of battery performance and system safety.

After all, providing a secure and reliable energy storage system involves, but is not limited to, high-tech safety features and compliance certification. Having an engineering team with the highest capabilities in system engineering and project execution is key to designing a safety system that meets your needs. Close collaboration between storage providers, factory developers, and end-users also facilitates guiding product design to achieve the highest level of safety. The local expertise of the storage provider's team simplifies the entire planning process and enhances the safety of factory operations and personnel well-being.