South Korea has ordered a string of extra safety measures after a months-long investigation into 23 fires at battery energy storage systems (ESS), most linked to wind and solar plants.
Government officials blamed a range of factors for the blazes, which broke out over the course of a year and prompted the suspension of more than 500 ESS facilities in the country.
South Korea is among the leaders in lithium-ion ESS technology globally thanks to the success of suppliers such as LG Chem and Samsung SDI, both of which saw their first-quarter domestic earnings hit by a freeze on market activity while the probe was underway.
The country’s industry ministry concluded that factors such as inadequate battery protection, unsuitable operating environments, faulty installation and system-level problems were at play. However, the government refused to assign blame to any particular part of the supply chain, saying the systems used components from a range of manufacturers.
The South Korean industry will now have to comply with a range of enhanced regulations, ranging from manufacturing to installation and operation.
South Korea’s Yonhap news agency quoted an unnamed ESS industry executive saying: “This is the first time that the industry is being subject to government-issued certifications and safety guidelines.
“The latest probe and follow-up measures will help the ESS industry grow in the long term after suffering.”
Energy storage technology is racing up the global energy agenda as markets seek ways to link variable renewable output to demand peaks and troughs.
ESS systems will play a key role in South Korea’s own ambitions to achieve a 35% share for renewables in its power mix by 2040, up from about 8% now.