Tesla Megapack goes up in flames at Australian battery site

The fire took place during a trial run of one of the biggest batteries in the world

Employees were evacuated from a testing plant near Melbourne, Australia on Friday after a fire broke out inside a Tesla Megapack battery container.

The fire started during the trial of the Victorian Big Battery energy project near Melbourne, run by French-firm Neoen who had contracted Tesla to deliver and operate the Megapack system.

Over 30 fire trucks and support vehicles and around 150 firefighters from the Country Fire Authority (CFA) and Fire Rescue Victoria (FRV) responded to the incident, which started at 10:30am local time.

Upon closer inspection, firefighters found a 13-tonne lithium battery on fire inside a shipping container. Crews wearing breathing apparatus worked to quickly contain the blaze and prevented it from spreading to nearby batteries.

A warning was issued for toxic smoke for local residents who were advised to close windows and doors, turn off heating and cooling systems, and bring pets indoors. A scientific officer conducted atmospheric monitoring on the scene and FRV’s specialist drone unit was also deployed to monitor the fire.

A close up of the Tesla battery on fire

“There was one battery pack on fire to start with, but it did spread to a second pack that was very close to it,” said CFA incident controller and District 7 acting assistant chief fire officer Ian Beswicke. “The plan is that we keep it cool on the outside and protect the exposures so it doesn’t cause any issues for any of the other components in the power station.”

Beswicke added that the CFA will continue to monitor the situation overnight. The cause of the fire is still undetermined and will be investigated “once it is safe to do so”.

A spokesperson from Neoen told IT Pro that no one was injured during the fire and the site had been evacuated. 

"The site has been disconnected from the grid and there will be no impact to the electricity supply," said the spokesperson, adding that the fire is now out and the situation is being monitored.

IT Pro has contacted Tesla for comment.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk wrote on Twitter “Prometheus Unbound” following the news of the fire at the battery site, referring to the god of fire.

The Victorian Big Battery project aims to support the Australian state’s mission of using 40% renewable energy by 2025 and 50% by 2030. It uses Tesla’s Megapack technology, which is designed for grid-scale commercial projects. Each Megapack is pre-assembled with battery modules, bi-directional inverters, a thermal management system, an AC main breaker, and controls in one enclosure.

In April, Texas police investigating the Tesla car that crashed without any passengers in the driver’s seat were set to serve the company a warrant for the vehicle’s data. Theories emerged that the vehicle was in ‘autopilot’ mode when it careered off a bend at high speed.

Furthermore, the crash highlighted concerns around hard-to-extinguish fires when it comes to electric cars, according to The Washington Post. Officials said the battery inside the vehicle ignited after the collision, causing a fire that burnt for four hours and required over 30,000 gallons of water to extinguish.

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