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UK's giant battery 'farms' spark fears of explosions that can reach temperatures of 660C

Today's Mail on Sunday carried a very disturbing story about batteries used to store energy at nearly 400 sites - Cleve Hill at Graveney is one of them.

"Last year in Merseyside, one of three battery cabins on a site caught fire and exploded. A report seen by The Mail on Sunday said nearby residents, who were ordered to stay indoors, had their homes rocked by the explosion.

'This is not nimbyism at all,' Prof Allison adds. 'This is a potential Grenfell Tower-like fire. People will be killed.'

A Mail on Sunday investigation has identified nearly 400 battery sites – from Newquay to the Scottish Highlands – which are either operational or in development.

And thanks to a relaxation in planning laws, 104 of these have been proposed in the past year alone – including in the village of Stocking Pelham in Hertfordshire's Ash Valley.

When The Mail on Sunday visited, we were struck by the noise from the nearly four-acre plant."

Experts say she is right to be concerned. Prof Allison and the co-authors of his report, Dr Edmund Fordham, a fellow of the Institute of Physics, and Professor Sir David Melville, former vice-chancellor of the University of Kent, wrote to the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) last year about their concerns.

But they were told the batteries were considered 'articles' – everyday objects not covered by the Control of Major Accident Hazards regulations. It means these plants, or battery energy storage systems, as they are known, are unregulated under UK law.

'This throws the entire responsibility on to the fire service,' Prof Allison says. 'I wouldn't want to live within a mile of one.'

Given the size of the proposed plants, Prof Allison says this could, in theory, lead to an explosion several times bigger than the one that destroyed the harbour in Beirut last year. 

The threat of fire is not merely theoretical. South Korea saw 23 battery farm fires in just two years. A recent battery fire in Illinois burned for three days and thousands of residents were evacuated. 

July 11, 2021

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