Tesla Megapack Catches Fire In California

Utility-scale Megapack battery from Tesla catches fire, with local residents warned to stay indoors due to air pollution worries

An industrial Tesla battery pack designed for use by power utilities has caught fire in California, prompting health concerns for nearby residents.

CNBC reported that a Tesla Megapack caught fire at a PG&E (Pacific Gas and Electric Company) energy storage facility in Monterey, California on Tuesday.

The fire triggered road closures and shelter-in-place orders for residents nearby, amid concerns about the toxic fumes given off by the battery fire.

Tesla Megapack

CNBC cited Richard Stedman, an air pollution control officer for the Monterey Bay Air Resources District (MBARD) as saying that in general lithium ion battery fires can emit toxic constituents such as hydrochloric and hydrofluoric acid.

It seems that at least one Tesla Megapack caught fire early Tuesday morning at the energy storage facility operated by PG&E, but as of late Tuesday morning, there were no power outages for PG&E customers, nor any injuries to on-site personnel due to the fire, according to PG&E spokesperson Jeff Smith.

The California utility became aware of the fire at 1:30 am on 20 September, Smith told CNBC via email.

PG&E had commissioned the 182.5-megawatt (MW) Tesla Megapack system, known as the Elkhorn Battery at Moss Landing, in April this year.

The fires in the energy storage systems at Moss Landing are reminiscent of incidents involving Tesla Megapacks in Australia, CNBC reported.

In December last year, Australia turned on the biggest battery in the southern hemisphere, designed to ensure that homes in the state of Victoria remain powered during blackouts, or in times of heavy demand on the local grid.

The Victorian Big Battery, the facility was developed by French energy giant Neoen and it utilises Tesla’s utility-scale Megapack batteries.

During testing in July 2021, a fire occurred at the facility.

Blackout solution?

The idea of these battery facilities are to store energy generated from renewable but intermittent sources, such as solar or wind.

These facilities could thus be suitable in locations that suffer from patchy power generation capabilities.

South Africa for example, where the local state-run power utility Eskom has struggled after years of corruption and mismanagement, could well benefit from facilities such as these, coupled to solar farms, in order to prevent the ongoing power outages that have plagued that nation since 2008.