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How to set up a Solar Battery System

Setting up Battery Systems

By Bill Gammon – Skillbuild Training

If there is one thing that I find exciting in the Solar Industry today it is the growing adoption of battery technology. In fact, our Solar Battery training courses are filling with electricians who want to be a part of this emerging sector. Consequently, our social media feeds are seeing a lot more pictures of these installations. Unfortunately, I see a lot of posts that show battery systems that just don’t make the grade when it comes to safety. So, I just wanted to clarify a few points about how these systems should be set up.

Standards and chemistries

Lead acid, nickel alkaline and lithium chemistry types may represent a fire hazard. However, not all chemistries have Standards but the re-released AS 5139 later in the year will outline the requirements. They have categorised the battery chemistries into the table below (this comes from the CEC Battery Install Guidelines).

Setting up a Solar Battery System

From CEC Battery Install Guidelines

Lithium Batteries

Lithium batteries are becoming the most popular. However, there are no Standards for it in Australia yet, so the requirement is that they follow the manufacturers’ specifications. For example, if the Manufacturer approves it you can put LiFE (Lithium technology) under the inverter. Lithium Manganese can release hydrogen under fault conditions, so this is an issue.

However, our ASNZ 3000 requires electrical equipment to be accessible so the idea of having a big box under the inverter impedes the Installers ability to work safely on the equipment.

AS 4086 outlines the ventilation rate in litres/sec that has to be provided around lead acid batteries – this is a calculation that we do.

Lead Acid Batteries

It is a bit simpler with Lead Acid technology as there are standards for this. The first thing we need to consider is that Lead Acid cells can produce hydrogen. This poses a major risk especially when around electrical equipment. Thus, the placement of the batteries in proximity to any kind of ignition is an important issue.

Placement of the batteries

ASNZ 4509 requires lead acid cells to be at least 500mm from any source of ignition unless there is a physical barrier installed. That means that if you place the batteries under the inverter it will potentially cause a hazard. The best suggestion is away to the left or right of the inverter by the required 500mm. It is also important to have some sort of enclosure over the batteries for that extra safety.

Light Fittings

There are also restrictions on light fittings (200mm to the side above cells) and socket outlets (1800mm away and 100mm below the top of the battery) and distances from the cells. Once again if you are placing the batteries under a source of ignition it may create issues.

Ventilation

The Standard also mentions ‘ventilation paths’ and making sure the equipment in cabinets does not vent onto other electrical equipment above it in a separate cabinet.

Fire rating rooms

There are also requirements for 2-hour fire ratings of rooms/cabinets in class 2-9 buildings for lead acid batteries. This is outlined in the National Construction Code and other battery standards.

Doing it right

This new technology is an exciting addition to the Renewable Energy Sector. It can bring so many benefits to the consumers as well as aiding the stability of the electricity grid. it is like anything we do, if we do it right then we will all receive the benefits of the newer technology.

Bill Gammon is the Training Coordinator of Skillbuild Training.  Skillbuild Training delivers CEC accredited Battery Storage on-Grid, Off-Grid as well as Grid Connect Solar courses. In 2018 they will be delivering Large Scale Solar Training (over 30Kw)  and Electric Vehicle charging courses for Electricians.