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BESS Failure Insights: Causes and Trends Unveiled

Explore battery energy storage systems (BESS) failure causes and trends from EPRI's BESS Failure Incident Database, incident reports, and expert analyses by TWAICE and PNNL.

Maria Guerra, Senior Editor-Battery Technology

May 20, 2024

7 Slides

Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) have become integral to modern energy grids, providing essential services such as load balancing, renewable energy integration, and backup power. However, as with any complex technological system, BESS are susceptible to failures impacting their performance, safety, and reliability. Understanding the underlying causes of these failures is critical for advancing the technology and ensuring its safe deployment.

This report, “Insights from EPRI’s Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) Failure Incident Database,” categorizes BESS failure incidents, drawing on data from the Electric Power Research Institute’s (EPRI) BESS Failure Incident Database, incident reports, root cause analyses, and expert interviews also conducted by TWAICE and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

The methodology

The report aims to identify patterns and trends in BESS failures, exploring the prevalence of specific root causes and affected components and their evolution over time. Such analysis is vital for the industry as it seeks to prioritize research and development efforts toward mitigating these failures and enhancing the safety and robustness of BESS technologies. The report categorizes incidents using a biaxial framework that examines two key aspects:

Related:Schneider Electric Redefines Microgrid Tech with BESS Innovation

  1. Root Cause of Failure: Design, manufacturing, integration/assembly/construction, or operation.

  2. Affected BESS Element: Cell/module, controls, or balance of the system.

The study analyzes the proportion of failures associated with each root cause and BESS element, the relationship between the two, and trends in failure types and rates over time. These insights guide industry efforts in optimizing safety research and product development.

Addressing the knowledge gap

There is a notable gap in publicly available resources that systematically categorize BESS failure incidents by their causes. Addressing this gap is imperative for providing industry-wide insights into both common and rare failure modes, thereby informing the development of targeted mitigation strategies. This knowledge is crucial, given that individual incident details and root cause information are often not readily accessible due to legal and proprietary constraints. Even jurisdictions with advanced regulatory frameworks, such as New York State, have yet to mandate the disclosure of root cause analyses following failure incidents. This report aims to bridge this knowledge gap, offering a foundation for improved safety standards and regulatory practices in the growing field of BESS technology.

Related:Fire-Preventing BESS Uses Modular Approach

The following slides contain insights based on the report from 26 classified incidents. Industry experts, primarily based in the United States, provided additional information beyond public reports. As a result, this report provides more limited information on incidents in other parts of the world. Top of Form

About the Author(s)

Maria Guerra

Senior Editor-Battery Technology, Informa Markets Engineering

Battery Technology Senior Editor Maria L. Guerra is an electrical engineer with a background in Oil & Gas consulting and experience as a Power/Analog Editor for Electronic Design.  Maria graduated from NYU Tandon School of Engineering with a Master of Science in Electrical Engineering (MSEE). She combines her technical expertise with her knack for writing. 

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