Short news on NAS batteries

NGK’s NAS batteries are restarting

Existing NAS batteries systems are rebuilt by NGK Insulators Ltd. to reduce potential fire risk. Slowly, but surely, the fire incident of September 21, 2011, becomes a classified event.

xcel-energy-logoFor instance, Xcel Energy now announces it is restarting its battery plant that was commissioned in 2008 and stopped on NGK recommendation after the fire incident in Japan.

GE continues to massively hire storage experts

geThere are still ten open job positions related to Durathon on GE web site. There is even one in Japan for a Field Services Engineer, in the middle of NGK playground.

More than ever, a leading technology for grid applications

sodiumIn a recent article “Dynamic Modelling of Advanced Battery Energy Storage System for Grid-Tied AC Microgrid Applications“, researchers concludes:

“Sodium sulfur-type BESS devices are best suited to the requirements set by modern microgrid applications. These batteries can act in contingencies where rapid action is required to maintain the adequate levels of the grid frequency, but also in the case of high penetration of renewable generation, such as wind or solar photovoltaic, since the NaS battery can operate as the perfect complement in valley hours. In this case, the excess energy can be stored for delivery in peak hours. They are environmentally safe and have low maintenance while operate at high temperatures; it does not represent a major drawback. The biggest drawbacks are the cost and the limited information about these type of batteries which difficult the development of experimental prototypes and computer models. It is expected however that the appearance of other vendors reduces costs and facilitate the modelling.”

It is one of the numerous independent studies that recognise the advantages of NAS compared with other technologies for grid storage solutions.

Gauthier Dupont
Dupont Energy Consulting GmbH

NAS batteries production on hold

NGK INSULATORS, LTD. has published today a Q&A on the NAS battery fire. They decided to suspend NAS batteries production and asked all customers to stop using already installed Batteries Energy Storage Systems (BESS).

This is bad news, not only for NGK, but for the whole grid-scale batteries sector. In an emerging sector, it is good for nobody when a major actor suffers from such an incident. It risks to discredit any type of grid-scale batteries, especially if opponents to the installation of large-scale batteries exploit the event. Personally, I hope they will rapidly find the cause and be able to resume the production.

NGK directly took the decision to ask their customers to stop using already existing BESS. Was it the right decision? Is NGK too cautious? Not every company would take this decision in similar situation. Look at Chernobyl and Fukushima. Many nuclear power plants are still running. Planes crash occasionally. Do we stop flying? Even wind generators burn and fall down, sometimes injuring people. Do we stop building them?

I know the situation is not exactly the same. But one should consider that their were no casualties. And it would not be the case if another batteries should burn again. BESS are completely automated and remotely monitored. They do not contain explosive components.

Was it wise to stop the production and the operation for one fire, while more than 300 MW of NAS batteries are installed around the world without major problem until now? The decision was premature. No one asked NGK to act so tragically. Stopping the production, ok. On a purely business point of view, it makes sense to wait for the identification of the cause, and then to adapt the processes to solve the problem. At the condition that it lasts not too long. But stopping existing BESS that are running since several years without any incident, it is excessive.

Unfortunately, it is too late. The decision was published. NGK put themselves in a difficult situation. And what would happen if the cause would never be identified?

Gauthier Dupont