Analysis of battery storage system failures point to monitoring more than cell defects

battery fire sign

Battery energy storage system (BESS) failure is being investigated heavily because of how disastrous BESS failures can be, and how important BESS is to the future of the grid. A joint study commissioned to analyze root causes of BESS failures underlined the impact of battery monitoring more than battery cell defects.

The study, Insights from EPRI’s Battery Energy Storage Systems (BESS) Failure Incident Database: Analysis of Failure Root Cause was published by battery analytics software provider TWAICE, the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), and the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL).

“Understanding the reasons behind battery storage failures is critical for preventing them, which is why we’re pleased to help create the first-ever public analysis of BESS incidents by cause,” said Ryan Franks, Senior Engineer at TWAICE.

BESS failure analysis

The report draws primarily from EPRI’s BESS Failure Event Database to categorize failure incidents by cause and failed element. Of the 81 events in the database, 26 had sufficient information to establish a root cause. TWAICE engineers worked with EPRI and PNNL to classify these failures, applying their expertise in battery analysis to determine causes and categorize them.

Their findings ultimately showed that many BESS failures can be prevented with better quality assurance and battery monitoring. Contrary to popular belief, the engineers determined only three failures could be traced to defects on the cell or module, underscoring the need for tools that enable improved commissioning and operational analysis of the entire system.

  • 65% of failures could be linked to the operation and integration of batteries – not their manufacturing or design
  • Just 11% of failures were due to battery cells and modules

“The report emphasizes the importance of battery analytics, with most of the failures traced to the integration and operation stages,” Franks said. “We believe this new resource will help guide further development of analytics software that can ensure BESS safety. We’re honored to support EPRI in the publication of this report and thankful for the collaboration of their engineers and those from PNNL.”

In underscoring the importance of battery analytics and its future development, the report lays the foundation for a more resilient and secure energy storage infrastructure. The analysis of failure incidents demonstrates that, while manufacturing defects do contribute to some failures, operators must pay equal attention to potential errors during the design, integration, and operation of BESS units.

Analytics software is ideally suited to detect these incidents before they lead to a system failure, and the publication of this report should help guide the development of mitigation strategies – which include the deployment of battery analytics.

The full report can be downloaded at EPRI’s website.

Listen to more in-depth conversations on Solar Builder's YouTube channel

Our most popular series include:

Power Forward! | A collaboration with BayWa r.e. to discuss higher level industry topics.
The Buzz | Where we give our 2 cents per kWh on the residential solar market.
The Pitch | Discussions with solar manufacturers about their new technology and ideas.