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Tesla Megapack battery fire ‘fully controlled’, advice on shelter lifted

Tesla logo in red on black background
Illustration by Alex Castro / The Verge

A Tesla Megapack battery caught fire this morning at the Elkhorn Battery Storage facility of local utility company PG&E in Monterey County, California, as reported by local news outlets KSBW Action News 8 and KRON4.

The fire started around 1:30 am this morning, according to Jeff Smith, PG&E’s comm manager. There were no injuries on the spot.

Around 7:00 p.m. PT / 10:00 p.m. ET, the North County Fire Department and Monterey County Sheriff’s Office lifted the advice and reopened the roads. In a tweet of the Public Information for Monterey County account, officials reported on the Megapack battery fire at the Elkhorn facility, saying, “While the fire is considered fully contained, smoke may remain in the area for several days.”

Monterey County Sheriff’s Office, North County Fire Protection District, and Pacific Gas & Electric had issued an on-site shelter for nearby areas, complete with an interactive map showing which areas are affected and road closures lasting more than 12 hours. Residents were asked to close all windows and turn off ventilation systems due to the hazardous waste incident caused by the Tesla Megapack fire.

Caltrans confirmed the fire closed part of Highway 1. off while firefighters deploy units to fight the blaze. The California Highway Patrol tweeted at 4:29 p.m. that the closure had been extended due to air quality concerns.

According to Smith, built-in safety systems worked as designed, with the Tesla batteries automatically disconnecting from the grid when the fire was detected.

The Vistra Zero facility, tall building in the center, at the Moss Landing Power Plant with a similar Tesla facility behind it in Moss Landing, California, on Wednesday, January 13, 2021. Vistra Zero is the largest energy storage system of its kind in the world,
Photo by Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images
The Vistra Zero facility, tall building in the middle, at the Moss Landing Power Plant with a similar Tesla facility behind it.

Elkhorn’s battery facility, located at Moss Landing, is home to a 182.5 megawatt Tesla Megapack system that was originally announced in 2019. The facility is owned and operated by PG&E, but it is designed, built, and also maintained by both Tesla and the utility company. Smith said PG&E does not expect the fires to cause customer outages.

California’s electrical grid is connected to multiple battery storage facilities, including Vistra Moss Landing Energy Storage Facility, a 400 megawatt arrangement across two buildings next to Elkhorn. The higher power operation includes batteries built by LG Energy Solutions, and according to: Mercury Newsthe was shut down earlier this year due to at least two separate battery overheating issues.

In July, Vistra reboot the facilities while operating at 98 percent of maximum capacity “after implementing identified corrective actions, including regarding connectors in the water-based heat suppression system.” It is currently building a 350-MW Phase III expansion and mentioned plans for a phase four setup that would increase the site’s capacity to 1,500 MW.

Update 4:55 PM ET: Added on-site shelter warning from Monterey County officials and additional local coverage from KSBW Action News 8.

Update 11:05 PM ET: Updated to note that the advisory has been lifted, roads have reopened and the fire is considered “fully under control”.

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