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Arizona Corporation Commission member questions risks of APS lithium battery sites

Posted: 6:07 PM, Aug 07, 2019
Updated: 2019-08-07 22:45:32-04
Firefighters injured in Surprise explosion

PHOENIX — Arizona Corporation Commissioner Sandra Kennedy says the lithium ion batteries stored at some APS facilities are "not prudent" and create "unacceptable risks."

In a letter submitted through the commission's website, Kennedy recommends the utility look at other sources of power. The letter is in response to a current investigation after an explosion at a Surprise facility in April that sent eight firefighters to the hospital.

ASU professor Hanqing Jiang researches lithium ion batteries.

"If you handle (them) correctly, lithium batteries are pretty safe," he said.

Generally speaking, Jiang says only a few things cause them to catch fire. For example, if they're not stored at the right temperature.

"If you use a sharp object, like a needle, to penetrate the battery, you can cause other problems," Jiang said.

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He says lithium ion batteries are commonly used in cellphones and laptops. He says there are other options for power, but they're not as fully developed as lithium.

An APS spokeswoman says after the explosion, all 3 of their storage facilities that use lithium were taken offline as the investigation continues.

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She says APS also has facilities that don't use lithium and it was already looking into other options before the explosion.