Enbridge promises firefighters will get special training if battery storage sites come to St. Clair

About 50 people attended a public meeting March 30 about the proposed Enbridge energy storage facilities.

Enbridge officials are assuring residents around three proposed battery storage developments local firefighters will get the training they need to deal with lithium ion battery fires.

About 50 people were at an open house held by the natural gas company March 30. The company has applied to build three different battery storage areas around Nova Chemicals.

The units may be on Tecumseh Road, Petrolia Line and Ladysmith Road. Each would generate 200 megawatts of power or enough to power one million homes according to Denise Heckbert, senior advisor on strategy, market strategy and power for Enbridge who was at the public meeting at Moore Sports Complex.

Heckbert told the crowd the company will be keeping the community up-to-date as the project progresses. The Independent Electricity System Operator is still reviewing the proposals and has yet to make a decision on who will build the power storage projects which are expected to ease energy shortages expected in the next decade in southwestern Ontario.

The biggest concern raised by neighbours of the proposed St. Clair projects was possible fires. Lithium ion battery fires cannot be put out with traditional firefighting methods. In the recent past, entire towns in the US were told to stay indoors as a fire at a battery storage area had to be allowed to burn out.

Heckbert says the current lithium ion storage facilities are built with individual, separated, self contained units a way so the chance of fire is low. In the slight chance that is did catch on fire, it would not be extinguished with water, she added. It would be left to burn out and any surrounding cubes would be sprayed with water to keep them cool.

Enbridge officials said the company will be supplying township firefighters will all of the battery specific training and equipment they will need to respond to whatever emergencies may arise at the three proposed sites. 

Sumesh Guptar of Enbridge said battery energy storage units have been used successfully for seven years without a fire in Texas and Florida.

Air quality will also be subject to monitoring, Heckbert said. Monitoring allows any potential dangers to be caught early so that Enbridge personnel can be sent to the site.   

Enbridge officials added trees will be planted around the sites to enhance the look of the areas.

St. Clair Township has already given a letter of support to Enbridge. It faced criticism from some landowners who voiced concern about the storage units being on land which had natural gas pipelines.

Enbridge wouldn’t give the value of the sites but in the material provided to council said it “would also result in significant new tax revenue.”