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Tesla's 182.5MW battery storage facility in California catches fire, causes shelter-in-place order for nearby residents.

image credit: Courtesy PG&E
Christopher Neely's picture
Independent Local News Organization

Journalist for nearly a decade with keen interest in local energy policies for cities and national efforts to facilitate a renewable revolution. 

  • Member since 2017
  • 722 items added with 352,537 views
  • Sep 21, 2022

The reputation of lithium-ion batteries, the technology which many believe is the best available on the market for storing energy, suffered another blow this week after a fire broke out at one of the world’s largest utility-owned battery facilities on Sept. 20. 

California utility Pacific Gas & Electric’s shiny new 182.5-megawatt Elkhorn Battery Facility, in Moss Landing, CA, shut down early Tuesday morning after a fire was detected in one of the 256 Tesla megapack batteries located on the site. The fire, though contained to a single battery pack, sent plumes of white smoke into the air, shut down California’s busiest coastal highway, and forced public safety officials to issue a shelter-in-place order for nearby residents. The shelter-in-place order was lifted later the same day. 

PG&E and Tesla announced the project in 2019 and it went fully operational in April 2022. The battery facility uses transmission lines from a long decommissioned fossil fuel plant in Moss Landing—once California’s largest fossil fuel plant and one of the state’s most substantial greenhouse gas emitters. 

As one of the largest utility-owned battery storage facilities in the world, this Tesla megapack system sits next door to the largest battery storage facility in the world: Vistra Energy’s 400MW lithium-ion battery facility—consisting of separate 300MW and 100MW facilities—which has had its own problems. In Fall 2021, Vistra had to shut down its 300MW facility after the fire suppression system was triggered, spraying several battery packs in water. The same thing happened only months later in Feb. 2022 at the 100MW facility. The monthslong shutdown ended in July. 

Despite the issues, Vistra is moving forward with an expansion of the facility with a 350MW battery storage facility, due to be operational by next summer. 

This week’s fire at PG&E’s facility next door was not the first time a Tesla megapack system has gone up in flames. Last year, a similar situation happened in Australia. 

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Jim Stack's picture
Jim Stack on Sep 23, 2022

This is news to me. I follow Tesla and had never heard about these fiers. It will be very interesting to see what the investigation finds. 

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