Energy Storage Safety Plan Addresses Gaps in Codes, Standards, and Regulations

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Office of Electric Delivery and Energy Reliability’s (OE) recently released “Strategic Plan for Energy Storage Safety” is helping industry stakeholders and regulators address a significant gap in safety codes, standards and regulations (CSRs) for grid-scale energy storage technologies, according to Vincent Sprenkle, chief engineer, electrochemical energy storage and conversion, Pacific Northwestern National Laboratory.

A rapidly growing number of energy storage installations and the regulatory mandates for energy storage use and development inspired the OE’s initiative to address the issue and create the strategic plan, Imre Gyuk, OE energy storage program manager, said during a Jan. 14 webinar on the strategic plan hosted by the Clean Energy States Alliance. There are currently more than 1,200 projects in the global energy storage database, with a significant number of those projects located in California, New York and Texas, he said.

The OE released the strategic plan on Dec. 23, 2014, as a high-level road map that will help the industry enable the safe deployment of energy storage by identifying the current state of safety issues and the desired future state of those issues. Recommendations in the strategic plan are based on the input of the participants of an OE workshop for grid energy storage safety conducted last October.

The current set of CSRs is incomplete and dispersed, and they do not cover the new technologies that the industry is applying at a rapid pace within the energy storage space Sprenkle said during the webinar.

“Current CSRs don’t cover new technologies, and they lag in almost any technology deployment,” he said. “Right now, CSRs focus on traditional systems, and the codes for [energy storage system] deployments are assessed on a case-by-case basis.”

Vincent said it is critical for the industry and regulators to identify the gaps between technology and the criteria of CSRs and develop a better understanding of what is necessary to secure energy storage system approval under CSRs that do not apply to a proposed technology.

Among the strategic plan’s near-term goals is development of CSRs that enable the deployment of safe energy storage systems in a comprehensive, non-discriminatory and institutionally efficient manner.

The scope of that goal includes identifying and addressing critical near-term issues affecting CSR treatment of storage; expanding the breadth and depth of CSR treatment of energy storage systems; and incorporating advances that come from ongoing research, development, demonstration and deployment in system-relevant CSR. The scope also includes the coordinated engagement of stakeholders to prepare and revise CSR through official CSR organizations to provide timely contributions to ongoing revision processes.

According to the strategic plan, stakeholders will conduct a thorough review of existing CSR regarding gaps related to energy storage systems and those gaps will be prioritized and approaches for their resolution determined.

Stakeholders also will work to resolve those gaps based on their priority, focusing on those that are potential “showstoppers.” In addition, authorities having jurisdiction over energy storage systems will be engaged in regions where those systems are being actively deployed to provide information and assistance related to resolving CSR uncertainties, and to gain insights on CSR challenges for energy storage.

While the strategic plan does not provide a specific time frame for those activities or the entities that will govern them, some developments already are underway.

Kenneth Willette, division manager, public fire protection division for the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), said during the webinar that the several NFPA committees are looking at energy storage systems right now, and some have proposals to include additional language for energy storage systems.

Willette noted that NFPA 13, a standard for the installation of sprinkler systems, has a chapter on energy storage reserved for future consideration, and NFPA 850, a recommended practice for fire protection for generators and converter stations, has a taskforce that is looking at that issue.

“It is being recognized and it is being addressed by a select group of standards,” he said.

This article was originally published on TransmissionHub and was republished with permission.

Lead image: Safety first helmets via Shutterstock

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Jennifer Delony, analyst for TransmissionHub, started her career as a B2B news editor in the local and long-distance telecommunications industries in the '90s. Jennifer began covering renewable energy issues at the local level in 2005 and covered U.S. and Canadian utility-scale wind energy as editor of North American Windpower magazine from 2006-2009. She also provides analysis for the oil and natural gas sectors as editor of Oilman Magazine.

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