Hydro Energy Power Plant

Hydro Energy Power Plant

ORR Protection works with multi-state, multi-location hydroelectric facilities and hydroelectric owners in both the private sector and the public sector.

Hydroelectric power generation plants are prolific in the United States because the technology has been around for hundreds of years with many facilities having been built in the 1930s. Many of these sites are using antiquated fire protection technology that needs to be replaced. Technology has advanced, leaving the original equipment unable to meet modern fire protection standards and repairing the current equipment is not possible as parts for those systems are no longer available. If a failure occurs the facility could be at risk of being out of service. 

Having fire protection systems that are 25 years old is not uncommon in these facilities. ORR Protection can work with the engineer of record for the site, site personnel, or insurance companies to make sure they are aware of the newest technologies ensuring the asset is protected and the people within that space are safe.

Hydro Energy Power Plant FAQs

Are the typical hazards in the energy storage aspects of hydroelectric or in the production of energy?

One of the most important things to protect at a hydroelectric site are the generators in the generator gallery. Within a single gallery, there may be multiple units turning at the same time. Because of this, advanced smoke detection or Vesda within that gallery space is very important as it can detect smoke at very early stages of a fire. Other detection technology solutions include ultraviolet or infrared detection which allow the potential energy coming from the fire due to the thermal dynamics of an event.

Lube oil is typically the number one hazard within a hydroelectric power generation turbine package. It's a flammable mineral oil with a flashpoint risk. If a hose breaks or a bearing ceases up that can’t be cooled it will create a fire risk potentially generating class B fire. Electrical controls and other parts of the gallery must be protected too.

CO2 is often used to protect these generators but it’s important to be aware that CO2 is heavier than air and can cause a risk of migration to a lower point. Therefore, it must be handled properly using the correct enunciation, alarms, and safety devices per the CO2 code NFPA 12.

Learn More about CO2 Systems 

A common alternative solution used in this environment is water mist. Water mist droplet sizes are so small that they're nonconductive and have proven to be successful in protecting the turbines and electronics.

Learn More about Water Mist Systems 

It is also critical to protect the motor control center or the switchgear in the electrical rooms with clean agent fire suppression systems so if an event were to happen, there wouldn’t be damage to the electronics as with a sprinkler system. 

How should a hydroelectric power plant plan for fire protection during a shutdown?

Many plant galleries have multiple units within the space and may only take one of the units down at a time. Safety is a big concern, so it is critical to make sure personnel understand the electrical safety, the mechanical safety, and the lockout tagout systems that are required because there is live power generation happening while they are working in the gallery area. 

What are the biggest safety concerns in a hydroelectric power facility?

The biggest concern is bringing an antiquated CO2 system up to the current codes and standards. In 2005, NFPA 12 standards for CO2 changed requiring all CO2 systems use up-to-date safety devices and the requirement is retroactive. An example of the safety devices now required are pneumatically driven sirens. If the electrical part of the system is down and somebody still activates the discharge sequence the siren would activate to notify everyone on the site that CO2 is being released into the space.

CO2 is a powerful firefighting agent, yet its displacement of oxygen makes it dangerous and potentially fatal to humans. That’s why we recommend installing pneumatic sirens, implementing lockout tagout and time delay modules in these environments. We also evaluate where the CO2 is going to migrate in order to make sure we place warning signs in those areas, installing oxygen monitoring systems to ensure the oxygen is not depleting in low-lying areas within a hydroelectric facility.

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Power generation facilities, whether hydroelectric or fossil fuel, all present significant and varied fire hazards, from both the fuel and the rotating machinery. Fire also poses a significant business risk, not only because power plants are a major capital investment, but also because downtime can have serious repercussions for those who depend on an uninterrupted supply of electricity.



Like data centers, broadband facilities rely on sensitive computing equipment, they are often tightly packed, cooling is a concern, cables and network equipment are always live with electricity, and a fire would be catastrophic. Risk is accentuated when buildings are unmanned. Many are located in remote areas. In some cases, the buildings sole purpose is to house telco network equipment and fire suppression equipment is not required by the AHJ.

Rick Reynolds

Vice President, Power Generation

Rick has worked in the fire protection industry for over 35 years. He is a frequent speaker and presenter at corporate meetings, workshops, conventions, and industry trade shows related to fire protection. Rick is a master electrician and has achieved numerous certifications in both the electrical and fire protection industries. 

Rick joined ORR Protection in 1991 and was elevated quickly to operations manager for the Southeast Region. He was instrumental in developing ORR’s National Accounts Program. In 2010, Rick became vice president of National Accounts and the Southeast region of ORR Protection. Then in 2018, Rick assumed the role of vice president for the Power Generation Marketplace, an ever-evolving market that includes the country’s energy storage marketplace. 

Chuck Hatfield

National Account Manager,
Power Generation

Chuck began his career as a fire fighter and paramedic in Atlanta, GA. He quickly moved into industrial fire protection where he specialized in R&D as well as distributer and end-user training. Chuck went on to develop the industrial fire brigade training and special hazards awareness for the entire utility industry before taking a position at ORR Protection.

Chuck has continued to build upon his fire protection expertise over the past 15 years, working in many types of power plants and other heavy industrial sites. When he is not traveling the country supporting utility sites with fire protection solutions, Chuck spends his time at home with his wife and 6 children.

Lee Kaiser

Vice President, Engineering

Lee  is VP of Engineering and Technical Training for ORR Protection and is Chairperson of the technical committee for NFPA 75, Standard for the Protection of Information Technology Equipment. His career at ORR has been to provide technical and thought leadership in the protection of mission critical facilities.

Lee is a professional engineer in the discipline of fire protection engineering. He participates in industry committees for ORR and gives technical education sessions at conferences and seminars throughout the county.