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Faulty batteries blamed for ESS fires: panel

All News 15:19 February 06, 2020

By Kang Yoon-seung

SEJONG, Feb. 6 (Yonhap) -- An expert panel said Thursday malfunctions in batteries are mainly to blame for a recent series of fires in energy storage systems (ESS).

An investigation panel of experts concluded after a four-month probe that faulty batteries rising to abnormally high temperatures were mostly responsible for the five fires that occurred from August to October last year.

Three of the cases were caused by ESS equipment produced by LG Chem Ltd, with Samsung SDI Co. being responsible for the other two.

The ESS refers to the procedures of saving energy in a large-scale battery for efficient distribution of power. For example, it can save energy during night hours to be utilized during daytime, when demand for power is high.

"We believe the fires were caused by the high charging rate, above 95 percent, coupled with malfunctions in batteries," the panel said in a statement, advising ESS products should be charged to levels below their capacity.

In response to the panel's recommendation, South Korea said it will issue new guidelines that center on allowing ESS products to be only charged from 80 percent to 90 percent of their maximum capacity.

All ESS facilities will also be obligated to install black boxes to preserve evidence in case of accidents, according to the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy.

The latest findings are expected to deal a harsh blow to local battery companies, which avoided bearing direct responsibility for previous accidents.

In June last year, South Korea concluded that 23 fires that broke out in ESS equipment from August 2017 through May 2019 were largely caused by external problems and not related to batteries.

An energy storage system (ESS) facility located in Gimhae, 449 kilometers south of Seoul, is on fire in this file photo provided by the South Gyeongsang Province Fire Department on Oct. 27, 2019. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)


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