Victorian Liberals Fire Up Over Big Battery Blaze

Victorian Big Battery fire - Tesla Megapack

Victorian Big Battery Tesla Megapack fire | Image: CFA

Victoria’s Shadow Minister for Energy and Renewables isn’t impressed with the Andrews Labor Government’s handling of the Victorian Big Battery fire.

Just to briefly recap:

The Victorian Big Battery is a 300 MW / 450 MWh energy storage project consisting of 210 Tesla Megapacks being constructed at a site near Moorabool Terminal Station, not far from Geelong. France-headquartered Neoen has contracted Tesla to deliver and operate the project.

During initial testing last Friday, one of the Tesla Megapacks caught fire, and the fire subsequently spread to a second container. The blaze was contained to such a small part of the site in part due to system design, but largely thanks to a bunch of firies jumping in and doing what they do best.

The CFA declared the incident under control mid-Monday afternoon after the doors of the container of the battery were opened, with no sign of fire.

Rowswell Calls For Open and Transparent Investigation

Victorian Shadow Minister for Energy and Renewables Brad Rowswell says “Labor’s Big Battery” was meant to be operational by November this year, and is concerned Victorian Energy Minister Lily D’Ambrosio is unsure what impact the fire will have on the project hitting prime time, on time.

He also accused the State Government of being missing in action during much of the event.

“If Labor’s renewable energy solutions go up in flames even before they’re fully operational – what hope do Victorians have that this Government will be able to effectively manage the renewable energy transition?,” he said.

While the Liberal Nationals have a bunch of reasonable questions they want answers to, it was only on Monday when the flames were confirmed to be out and investigations/assessments will take a little time – it’s not something that should be rushed. And it wasn’t the whole project that went “up in flames” – the physical impact appears to be less than 1% of the whole project at this point.

Among the questions, Mr. Rowswell asks:

“How much will the Victorian taxpayer pay when the project schedule is pushed out?”

As far as I’m aware, the answer to this is $0 – Neoen is paying for construction of the battery, as well its ongoing operation and maintenance. As for the impact on Victoria’s energy supply and security, Minister D’Ambrosio has reportedly stated “we have more than sufficient energy to meet our needs”.

Still, the Victorian Government should have been on the ball with the media from the get-go – after all, it was a significant event involving an important project it had previously crowed about. Not saying anything during the early stages of the event only created fertile ground for accusations of not being open and transparent.

As to what’s happening now and next, Neoen hasn’t provided any further update that I know of since Monday evening. But the CFA mentioned on Tuesday fire investigators attended the scene that day to begin investigating the cause.  The CFA, Energy Safe Victoria and WorkSafe Victoria will work with Neoen and Tesla to determine the cause of the fire and to ensure the site is safe as a workplace.

About Michael Bloch

Michael caught the solar power bug after purchasing components to cobble together a small off-grid PV system in 2008. He's been reporting on Australian and international solar energy news ever since.

Comments

  1. Victorian Liberals, or any Liberals, for that matter, are never happy with anything that the Dan Andrews Labour government has been involved with. They are opposing and criticising everything Labour does just to show they are there and keep the Murdoch press happy.

    Believe it, or not, the State Government does have other pressing matters at the moment, not just a fire at the battery farm. Let’s get the expert investigators report in and published before baying for blood.

    The Liberals should be engaging this Government with constructive ideas, not negative carping for the sake of opposing.

    Did Dan start the fire, is it being sorted at no cost to the state, except for a slight delay ?

    Put up or stfu O’Brien and your mates.

    • Chris Thaler says

      Were all the carping oppo pollies to , as you say ‘stfu’, there may well be a marked reduction in global warming due to their lowered contribution. Ill informed & technically incompetent seems to be the norm’ these days of anyone opposed to non fossil fuelled efforts and inputs.

    • For goodness sake, aren’t there any Labor supporters out there?

  2. You guys really should push the discussion towards a mandatory code requirement for home battery installations to have adequate fire proofing, whether that be by physical distancing or requiring a fireproof wall behind. Otherwise we are going to have
    1) a tragedy
    And
    2) a train wreck for the technology and efforts to reduce emmissions more generally

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