DNV GL, the world’s largest resource of independent energy experts and certification body, has completed an in-depth power failure investigation (PFI) into a major fire at a large-scale South Korean energy storage facility. Carried out at the request of the facility’s insurer, the investigation pinpointed the root cause and highlighted weaknesses in current approaches to monitoring and prevention systems that make small failures more likely to become major issues.

Korea is emerging as one of the fastest growing markets for energy storage systems in the world. However, in recent years, it has suffered a number of high-profile failures and fires at energy storage facilities which have prompted the government to launch a review and upgrade of the country’s safety regulations for energy storage facilities.

After one such major fire at a large energy storage facility, DNV GL was contracted by the site’s insurer to carry out an independent investigation of the power failure to determine the underlying root cause of the failure and any contributing factors. Now completed, the investigation allowed the insurer to make an evidence-based pay-out decision. In addition to pinpointing the minor manufacturing glitch that initiated the failure, the power failure investigation found that insufficient monitoring and protection systems allowed the failure to escalate into a major fire.

“Our in-depth and independent analysis of the incident highlighted differences between South Korean and international safety standards that can potentially make small failures more likely. The South Korean government is already in the process of reviewing it regulations, but we strongly recommend that South Korean energy storage systems project developers invest more time and intention in adequate monitoring and protection systems to stop these small failures becoming major, costly and highly expensive incidents,” says Nicolas Renon, Executive Vice President Asia Pacific, at DNV GL – Energy.

Building on the investigation, DNV GL has now been contracted to determine ways to assess the future usability of an energy storage system that has suffered a fire. It is hoped that the project will lead to methods for validating the state of a battery after a fire and determining how much of it remains functional. This will enable operators to make informed decisions on whether a damaged energy storage facility must be replaced or can continue to operate safely and economically at reduced capacity.