what happened on the Amarenco site?

1 A “well controlled” fire

The fire broke out at the end of the morning, a place called Barban in Saucats, on Tuesday August 22 in a container of lithium-ion batteries at the new electricity storage plant. Back to normal after a day and a night of intervention by the firefighters of Cabanac-et-Villagrains and Cestas. No spread of flames or injuries to deplore. Did the heat wave of the last few days cause one of the units that had just been commissioned to overheat? “We are continuing our investigations”, is content to declare the management of Amarenco, manager of this new industrial site positioned near the source station of the Electricity transmission network (RTE), between Saucats and Saint-Magne, on the RD 111 .

The fumes were seen several hundred meters from the site.

DR

Joined by “Sud Ouest” on Tuesday evening, the industrialist has limited his communication to the maximum. A habit since the launch of this innovative project. Management did not wish to indicate the nature of the burning material. On site, firefighters said that lithium batteries were indeed burning inside a container. Information confirmed by the mayor of Saucats. Bruno Clément visited the industrial site on Wednesday morning in the company of a representative of Amarenco: “About fifty containers protecting batteries are positioned on the site. There is a safety distance between each module. The site is clear, it is several hundred meters from the forest. The fire was well controlled. »

The Claudia plant is being commissioned by Amarenco.

Thierry David/ “South West”

The elected official insists on the effectiveness of the fire protection system: “There is gas inside the container to smother the flames and prevent it from spreading. The smoke escaped through the roof. It is an industrial site, the fire risk exists but it is under control. Firefighters did not attack the fire as water was not recommended on a burning lithium battery. “We created a protective curtain around the container,” describe the firefighters. Analyzes of the water, recovered at the foot of the burnt container, must be carried out by Amarenco.

The fire did not spread to the forest.
The fire did not spread to the forest.

Thierry David/ “South West”

2 What is the Amarenco project?

The new lithium-ion battery electricity storage plant, called Claudia, is to be commissioned in October 2023 by the private energy producer Amarenco. For the past few months, the battery units have been gradually put into operation. “There are about fifty in total. They should soon be connected to the RTE network”, believes the mayor of Saucats. The industrial site is spread over 3 hectares on former agricultural land.

Shot of Claudia during the presentation of the project by Amarenco. The storage modules are located near the RTE substation and a solar park.
Shot of Claudia during the presentation of the project by Amarenco. The storage modules are located near the RTE substation and a solar park.

Amarenco

Amarenco responded to a call for tenders from RTE, a subsidiary of EDF, at the request of the minister responsible for energy. Objective: to ensure security of electricity supply at the national level. The private company benefits from a guaranteed price for seven years, regardless of market conditions. Amarenco will have to make the electricity stored in Saucats available during peak periods of electricity consumption, in winter. Amarenco is developing a project of approximately 75 megawatts, “which would make the Claudia power plant the largest site in France and one of the largest in Europe”, communicates the group in specialized publications.

3 The concern of local residents

Photos taken by neighbors of the new industrial site went around Saucats on Tuesday. They fed the fears of the inhabitants. “Thick black smoke billowed from the container. What is its toxicity? If the wind had pushed the smoke in the direction of my fields, I might have lost all my crops,” fumes a neighboring farmer who produces corn, carrots, potatoes and peas. This distrust was expressed several times during the public inquiry into the Claudia project and during the national Horizeo debate. This other XXL project, in Saucats, is not linked to that of the Amarenco electricity storage plant.

“We want to know the origin of this fire. We all have in mind the fire that occurred in Australia in a Tesla battery plant. I have the impression that industrialists are playing sorcerer’s apprentices”, reacts a local resident. The Horizon Forêt association, very critical of these projects in the heart of the Landes de Gascogne, is sounding the alarm: “This accident reinforces our concerns about the risks associated with the battery storage site, near the forest”, reacts the president, Marlène Coulomb.

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