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Turbines must have “fire suppression” systems, The Nation council decides

The Nation – The Nation’s council has decided it wants wind turbines built in the area to have “fire supression systems,” but the project manager of the planned Eastern Fields Wind Project says council may not have the authority to enforce the new rule.

RES will follow all of the provincial guidelines for the project, said Lucas Reindler. “In terms of the municipality’’s requirements, we are certainly going to consult closely with them…but there is no formal requirement for us to get any approval or permit or bylaw from the municipality,” he said. He said he wasn’t aware of council’s discussions.

The Gauthier wind project, awarded a contract earlier this year, has been renamed “Eastern Fields Wind Farm.” The project will see a 32 megawatt wind farm operational by early in 2019, if the developers stick to a tentative schedule published on the project’s website.

The issue of fire suppression systems for the turbines was first raised at a meeting of the The Nation’s emergency management committee, which then recommended that council consider a bylaw required fire suppression systems in the turbines. On July 11, council voted in favour of passing a bylaw to that effect before the turbines are installed.

Mayor Francois St-Amour says the municipality is still researching examples of similar bylaws, and said RES was already considering installing fire suppression before the municipality brought it up.

Reindler said he didn’t know specifically what is meant by “fire suppression system.” However, he said, “if there is a risk of fire, we are going to minimize it way before anybody requires it of us.” He said turbines are monitored very closely.

An Ontario Fire Service “guidance memo” about says turbine fires are rare, but recommends that fire departments contact wind turbine owners to develop a safety plan which addresses contact information for the turbine supervisors, safe collapse zones, “rescue options for workers trapped in the nacelle in non-fire situations” and “high-voltage components and combustible materials within the wind turbine.” In the event of a fire, the memo says, fire fighters should not try to reach the top of the 100-meter-high structure – the fire can be allowed to burn itself out, while firefighters maintain a safe area around the turbine and watch for ground fires caused by sparks or debris.

That’s what happened in one example of a turbine fire in Ontario – in 2013, a wind turbine caught fire near Goderich in Southern Ontario. The fire was allowed to burn itself out, which took about two hours, according to media reports of the incident.

The Eastern Fields project will have its first public meeting in the fall, according to the company’s projected timeline. Construction would begin in late 2018 with the wind farm operational by early 2019.

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