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Samsung SDI to spend W200b on ESS safety measure

Samsung SDI said it planned to adopt a special extinguishing system for its energy storage systems to prevent fires at a cost of about 200 billion won ($169 million), the firm said Monday.

The special extinguishing system comprised of advanced chemicals and blockers of thermal diffusion can prevent fires from spreading to nearby cells even if a cell ignites, according to the battery maker.

The company plans to apply the system to all of its new energy storage systems and also to the existing ones until this month. 

Samsung SDI Vice President Lim Young-ho speaks at a press briefing related to ESS safety measures on Monday in Seoul. (Samsung SDI)
Samsung SDI Vice President Lim Young-ho speaks at a press briefing related to ESS safety measures on Monday in Seoul. (Samsung SDI)

The battery maker’s safety measure comes after 26 fires broke out in energy storage systems nationwide since August 2017, including three cases, which took place after the government had announced its safety measures in June.

“Although it is difficult to calculate the costs exactly, it is estimated that between 150 billion won and 200 billion won will be required to apply the new safety system,” said Kwon Young-no, head of Samsung SDI’s management support office, during a press briefing in Seoul.

The system passed the tests of US safety testing organization UL, according to the firm.

Regardless of its safety efforts, Samsung SDI highlighted that the firm is not the cause of multiple fire cases of energy storage systems in recent years.

“We have prepared the tough safety measures in order not to unsettle the public and clients although it was found that the cause of the fires did not result from our batteries,” said the firm’s spokesperson.

The firm instead hinted that the cause might lie in system operators or installers because the same batteries did not cause fires overseas.

Samsung SDI Vice President Lim Young-ho said, “Overseas, operators tend to have more experience of operating electric grids and strictly follow laws related to installation and operation.”

He added fires can break out if batteries are dropped, water leaks into them or dust builds up, and the firm found many ESS sites were not in good order.

An energy storage system stores electrical energy for later consumption. This is in line with the government’s push toward eco-friendly energy policies, as they can store solar and wind energy for use when they cannot generate power directly, such as at night or when there is insufficient wind.

On the same day, LG Chem released a similar statement, saying it is also preparing to launch safety products to prevent fire spread. “As soon as all the tests are complete, we will apply them to related systems.”

In the latest quarter, Samsung SDI is predicted to see a drop by 13.9 percent in operating profit compared to the previous year. LG Chem’s business profit is expected to fall by 42 percent during the same period.

Vice President Lim said orders from clients have “fallen around half” this year compared to the previous year. Samsung SDI said it also spent more than 23 billion won on fire recovery.

By Shin Ji-hye (