Battery Energy Storage Systems

Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) encourages early engagement with developers with the aim of improving fire safety of the site, firefighters and the community.

Grid scale Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) are a fundamental part of the UK’s move toward a sustainable energy system. The installation of BESS across the UK and around the world is increasing at an exponential rate.

In the UK, fire and rescue services are currently not statutory consultees in BESS developments. The National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) advise that as best practise, safety measures and risk mitigation should be developed in collaboration with the local fire and rescue service.

Avon Fire & Rescue Service (AF&RS) recognises the use of batteries (including lithium-ion batteries) as energy storage systems is new and is an emerging practice in the global renewable energy sector. The Service is looking to work with developers of such systems to better understand any risks that may be posed and develop strategies and procedures to mitigate these risks.

  • Procure components and use construction techniques which comply with the relevant legislation.
  • Include Automatic Fire Detection systems in the development design.
  • Include automatic fire suppression systems in the development design. While there are various types of suppression system available, AF&RS advice that the system is water misting, in the event of a lithium-ion battery fire which may produce thermal runaway, a water system would be more effective in preventing re-ignition.
  • Include redundancy in the design, to provide multiple layers of protection.
  • Design the development to contact and restrict the spread of fire, using fire-resistant materials.
  • Ensure adequate separation between elements of the BESS.
  • When looking at the location of the BESS, ensure you consider the impact on communities, sites and infrastructure as well as prevailing wind directions should their be a fire involving lithium-ion batteries.
  • Consider environmental impact, including preventing ground contamination, water course pollution, and the release of toxic gases.

We advise you to develop an emergency response plan alongside AF&RS, to minimise the impact of an accident during construction, operation and decommissioning of the facility.

The emergency response plan should include:

  • Details of the hazards associated with lithium-ion batteries
  • Isolation of electrical sources to enable fire-fighting activities
  • Measures to extinguish or cool batteries involved in fire
  • Management toxic or flammable gases
  • Minimising the environmental impact of an incident
  • Containing water run off from fire-fighting activity
  • Handling and responsibility for disposal of damaged batteries
  • Establishing regular on-site training exercises

The emergency response plan should be maintained and regularly reviewed by the occupier and inform AF&RS of any material changes.

  • Adequate separation between containers.
  • Adequate thermal barriers between switch gear and batteries.
  • Adequate ventilation, or an air-conditioning system, to control the temperature to reduce flammable gases in the event of a fire and remove carbon monoxide from the building.
  • Early warning fire detection systems, such as aspirating smoke detection or air sampling.
  • Carbon Monoxide (CO) detection within the BESS containers.
  • Sprinkler system to adequately contain and extinguish a fire within BESS containers.
  • Sufficient water availability for manual firefighting: an external fire hydrant should be in close proximity to the BESS containers and the water supply should be able to provide a minimum of 1,900 l/min for at least two hours. Further hydrants should be strategically located across the development and tested and serviced at regular intervals.
  • If the site is remote from a pressure fed water supply, than an Emergency Water Supply EWS) meeting the above standard should be incorporated into the design of the site, e.g. an open water source and/or tank(s). If above ground EWS tanks are installed, these should include facilities for the fire and rescue service to discharge (140/100mm RT outlet) and refill the tank.
  • A safe access route for fire engines and appliances to manoeuvre within the site (including turning circles). An alternative access point and approach route should be provided and maintained to enable vehicles to approach from an up-wind direction.
  • As the majority of BESS are remotely monitored, you must consider including the fixing of an information box at the fire and rescue service access point. The purpose of the information box is to provide information for first responders, to include water supplies for firefighting, drainage plans for any Pollution Control Devices (PCDs) or Penstocks for the fire and rescue service.

Large scale BESS is a new and emerging technology, as such, risks may or may not be captured in guidance for Building Regulations (as amended) and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. This will highlight challenges for fire and rescue services when responding to Building Regulation consultations. For this reason, it is recommended to apply the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 855 Standard for the Installation of Stationary Energy Storage Systems along with guidance from the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) Grid Scale Battery Energy Storage System Planning.

Further information can be found on the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) BESS Planning Guidance Document (PDF).

To inform Avon Fire & Rescue Service of any potential development, please ensure to contact our Business Fire Safety Team.

Contact the Business Fire Safety Team
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