Queensland Tesla fire: Firefighters told not to put out blaze

A Tesla battery has caught fire at a large-scale storage site in Queensland, with firefighters told not to put out the blaze.

Emergency services were called to the power substation at Bouldercombe, about 23km from Rockhampton, after a fire started in a lithium battery storage unit at 7.45pm on Tuesday.

Police said the blaze has been contained to one battery, but there is a possibility the fire may spread to other units, “creating a larger hazard”.

Despite the risk, it’s believed the Queensland Fire and Emergency Services, who are monitoring the blaze, have been advised by Tesla to continue to let the fire burn out, The Courier Mailreports.

A spokesman from Genex Power, which owns the Bouldercombe Battery Project, told the ABC “on advice from the Queensland fire brigade and protocols provided by Tesla, the fire is being allowed to burn out under the supervision of the fire brigade”.

As of 1.15pm on Wedesday, one crew remains on the scene and is moitoring the fire which remains contained to the single unit.

Queensland Fire and Emergency Services said low-lying smoke is expected to persist in the area over the coming hours.

Genex Power has confirmed the battery was one of the 40 Megapack units and the site has been disconnected from the grid.

The company said no-one was on site at the time.

Police said the fire is currently causing hazardous smoke in the area, with nearby residents urged to monitor QFES and police social media sites, and told to be prepared for police to doorknock homes in the area if the situation worsens.

Residents have also been warned to close windows and doors, and those with respiratory conditions have been urged to keep their medications close by.

Queensland Senator Matt Canavan shared news of the fire on Facebook, blasting the state’s new energy grid.

“A Tesla battery is on fire near Rockhampton and crews have been told not to put it out,” he wrote.

“Our new energy grid is worse than our old energy grid.”

The Bouldercombe Battery Project is one of the first stand-alone large-scale battery energy storage systems in Queensland.

Nicknamed ‘Big Bessie’, the battery went live in July and has the potential to power the town of Gracemere annually.

According to Genex’s website, Tesla was selected as the battery integrator and supplier.

‘Rocket-like flames’.

Paul Christensen, an electrochemistry professor at Newcastle University in the UK said Lithium-ion batteries, used in everything from phones to electric cars and power plants, are “amazing devices” capable of storing 10 times more energy than a conventional battery.

“But in my view, the penetration of these fantastic devices into all levels of our society has far outstripped our knowledge of the risks and hazards,” he previously told news.com.au.

If a battery is overcharged, overheats or sustains damage, it has the high likelihood of generating “huge quantities of explosive and toxic gas”, known as ‘thermal runaway’.

Professor Christiansen said a lithium-ion battery can leak up to 500L of gas per kilowatt hour.

“If that gas gets out in an uncontrolled fashion, it can – and has – caused rocket-like flames or even explosions.”

Police said work is being done to douse the surrounding batteries at the Bouldercombe site and could continue for several days.

Initial investigations indicate the fire is non-suspicious.

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