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Home > Solar Battery Storage > How safe are solar battery storage systems?

How Safe Are Solar Battery Storage Systems?

The solar battery revolution will soon start getting into gear in Australia and according to a survey carried out in 2017, safety is among the major concerns of Australians considering purchasing energy storage.

For those of you who are keen to dive into the nitty-gritty science, this report by the Clean Energy Council contains everything you'd ever need to know about battery storage safety.

For everyone else, here's an overview:

Solar battery storage, regardless of whether it's lithium ion, lead acid, flow or aqueous hybrid ion, is perfectly safe if it is installed by an accredited electrician and properly maintained.

However, the inherent safety behind battery storage does vary between competing technologies and even within each technology, quality in this regard will vary between manufacturers.

Lead acid is generally safe, and easily recyclable. By "generally", it needs to be kept in mind that lead acid batteries emit an explosive combination of hydrogen and oxygen gases towards the final stage of charging, so adequate ventilation is very important.

While it sounds a little offputting, it's just a case of avoiding a potentially dangerous situation by observing appropriate care and maintenance when working with lead-acid batteries. The danger level is really not much different to that associated with petrol powered cars and gas used in the home.

Lithium ion poses a fire hazard if not installed properly, or if you use inferior quality batteries. This is due to the chemistry behind lithium-ion batteries making them prone to 'thermal runaway' (aka bursting into flames) if they are damaged or if they overheat.

Because 'lithium ion' is an umbrella term that describes a wide variety of lithium chemistries (like lithium iron phosphate and lithium titanate), it's important to note that some types of lithium ion batteries are much safer than others.

Aside from the type of lithium-ion chemistry, safety will also depend on the systems built into the battery. For example, Tesla's Powerwall battery also boasts a special design that seals off any thermally unstable cells if they pose a thermal runaway risk, which is why they're rated for both outdoor and indoor installations.

However, lithium ion batteries are very difficult to dispose of/recycle, making them hazardous from an environmental perspective.

Flow batteries are much more environmentally friendly, and have a very low fire risk due to the inherent chemistry behind the zinc-bromide electrolyte, which is essentially a fire retardant. They're also very easy to recycle.

Salt water batteries are non-toxic, non-flammable, and non-explosive. Their chemistry is inherently safe and not capable of thermal runaway. The batteries are also entirely touch-safe, and environmentally friendly to recycle.

In short? Don't skimp on battery quality or installation costs. Get the job done right, and your battery storage system will operate safely and have a long service life.

>> Next: What kind of payback periods can you expect for a hybrid solar system? >>