A fire at a Tesla and Pacific Gas & Electric, Co. energy storage facility in the Monterey Bay area of California led California Highway Patrol and fire crews to shut down a section of Highway 1 and issue a shelter-in-place advisory on Tuesday.
Around 2 a.m. on Tuesday morning, a fire was first reported at Elkhorn Battery, which is a battery energy storage system. Firefighters found a battery pack on fire, Chief Joel Mendoza of the North Monterey County Fire Protection District told Monterey County Weekly.
PG&E told KRON-TV that it “became aware of a fire in one Tesla Megapack at its Elkhorn Battery Storage facility in Monterey County” around 1:30 a.m. on Tuesday.
“PG&E is working with firefighters to stop the spread of the fire and provide a safe area for emergency response personnel. Safety systems at the facility worked as designed when the issue was detected, and automatically disconnected the battery storage facility from the electrical grid,” Jeff Smith, the PG&E Communications Manager told the news outlet.
The Tesla Megapack that was on fire is part of the company’s energy storage system which “stores energy for the grid reliably and safely, eliminating the need for gas peaker plants and helping to avoid outages,” Tesla’s website explained.
Tesla also reported that Megapack is meant to be safe.
“Megapack is one of the safest battery storage products of its kind. Units undergo extensive fire testing and include integrated safety systems, specialized monitoring software and 24/7 support,” the website said.
However, Mendoza said that when a battery does catch on fire, it can be dangerous, he told the Monterey County Weekly.
“The thing about these batteries is they burn for days, sometimes. In this particular case it burned rather quickly, in six hours or so,” Mendoza told the newspaper.
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Mendoza said that the battery pack burned pretty cleanly, but to be on the safe side authorities still decided to shut down a section of Highway 1 and told nearby residents to shelter in place, Monterey County Weekly reported.
“As we started seeing weather and wind speed and direction change, we decided we would shut down Highway 1 and Dolan Road — we are not allowing anybody in. A shelter-in-place order is going out that is going to say stay indoors, shut you[r] windows and turn off AC units,” Mendoza said.
“It’s out of an abundance of caution. If some of these products of combustion carry far enough to where somebody would inhale something — we don’t anticipate that happening, but as a public agency in charge of public safety, we [are acting in] an abundance of caution,” the chief continued.
The California Highway Patrol also tweeted information about the highway closure and estimated that it would take several hours before the road opened again.
Around 10:30 a.m., CHP tweeted that it was still estimating about four to six hours before the section of Highway 1 would open.
“Updated road closure info: Closures for Hwy 1 at Salinas Rd & Molera Rd due to fire in Moss Landing. Expect delays. ETA to reopen 4-6 hours,” the tweet from CHP read.
🚧 Updated road closure info: Closures for Hwy 1 at Salinas Rd & Molera Rd due to fire in Moss Landing. Expect delays. ETA to reopen 4-6 hours. pic.twitter.com/6yNXYKSo1Q
— CHP Santa Cruz (@CHPscrz) September 20, 2022
The highway was closed before 7:30 a.m. Monterey County Weekly reported.
No injuries were reported at Elkhorn Battery. There were also no reports of electrical outages or problems for any customers, KRON reported.