Victoria Hutchison, Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF – NFPA, USA), outlined the fire safety challenges of new energy systems, underlining that fire safety regulations tend to be behind technological development and societal use. Societal trends accentuating fire risks include population aging, urbanisation and densification. Green buildings bring new fire safety challenges, relating to building design: out-of-plane geometry and solar concentration, composite construction materials, air-tight buildings, new window frame systems, façade insulation … At the same time, new energy systems bring fire risks into buildings, with energy generation (photovoltaic, heat pumps), energy storage and battery charging.
Small batteries, however, can also pose extensive fire risks and can lead to major fires (photo). Already today, the USA has recorded several hundred fire incidents in scooter and cycle batteries.
Globally, there have been over 40 fire incidents in battery electric storage systems. Similarly, photovoltaic panels pose specific new fire and electric safety challenges for firefighters, as discussed below.
The fire risks of new energy systems can be accentuated by design and materials in ‘Green Buildings’. Environmental assessment of buildings should take into account environmental impacts of fires and material replacement in case of fire.