Energy Storage Systems (ESS) are in increased demand for stationary applications.  The aggressive implementation of stationary ESS in the U.S., on both sides of the meter, has caused an increased focus on the degree of risks they pose, and how to best understand and mitigate risks.  Stationary energy storage has many energy, economic, environmental and policy drivers that in spurring ESS can raise risk management concerns and challenge efforts to protect public safety. There is no expectation that the rapid evolution of stationary storage associated with energy storage technologies will slow as costs of storage continue to fall, new applications continue to be discovered, and the drivers above continue to spur ESS installations. There has been and continues to be a pressing need for a coordinated, industry-wide action involving all stakeholders focused on ensuring the safety of ESS installations.

In 2013, with the release of Grid Energy Storage Strategy, the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability (DOE OE) identified the challenges to widespread use of energy storage.  One key challenge identified was how to address the risks associated with energy storage in a timely manner.  This challenge provided the motivation for holding an energy storage safety workshop sponsored by DOE OE in 2014.  A wide range of stakeholders attended this workshop, and with their input, the DOE Energy Storage Safety Strategy was developed and released in 2014. DOE has fostered a number of efforts to address energy storage risk assessment and mitigation, including numerous publications, educational materials, communications and meetings organized under an ESS Safety Working Group (ESS WG).  Three sub-groups under the ESS WG began work in 2015, focusing on research and development (R&D), codes and standards and education and outreach.  Through their efforts, research has been facilitated, codes and standards have been updated and content to facilitate their application provided, and information on risk identification and management has reached those having an impact on the development and use of energy storage systems.  With a significant increase in R&D activities and the need to update codes and standards to address the safety of growing number and type of ESS, Sandia Labs held an energy storage safety forum in early 2017 to bring together the community to share past efforts and identify the most critical needs going forward.

The growth in ESS is accelerating.  The efforts associated with understanding risks and mitigating these risks is likewise receiving renewed and greater attention.  Understandably, as commercial interests are primarily concerned with delivering high-value technology at low cost, the organizational work and collaborative efforts needed are difficult to realize when the industry is focused on meeting market demands. Therefore, the DOE OE and national labs who support its activities in ESS safety are shepherding these activities, facilitating efforts to identify and mitigate risks in ESS and establishing the foundation needed for increased communication and collaboration amongst all ESS stakeholders.  With the growth and expansion of ESS technology, future efforts will need to remain aggressive. To keep pace in addressing research gaps, inform updates and enhancements to codes and standards, facilitate the use of the provisions of adopted codes and standards, and to help educate the public and relevant stakeholders in the application of ESS and how to best respond to any safety-related ESS incidents.  The sheer number of entities and individuals having a connection to energy storage is increasing, and the need for communication and collaboration amongst all those stakeholders is more critical every day. Even with all of these activities, there will always be the probability of a safety-related incident. However, through this initiative, the risks associated with these incidents can be identified, evaluated for likelihood, assessed for impact, and mitigating actions can be taken in a measured and considered way.  Rather than prompting overreaction, any failures can be put into perspective and can prompt constructive discussion on best practices for risk mitigation and how to ensure those practices are adopted and applied.  This process aims to prevent unnecessary roadblocks to ESS installations that are clearly a needed part of building a more resilient energy infrastructure.

Read more in the DOE OE Energy Storage Systems Safety Roadmap.