Man blames wind project blasting for damage

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SEARSBURG — The state agency that regulates power utility projects is investigating whether construction blasting from the Deerfield Wind project damaged a man's home.

Francis Candiloro of Searsburg wants the developers of the 15-turbine project to repair damage to his home off Route 8.

"All I have asked for is for them to do the repairs," Candiloro said Saturday, referring to chimney, window and other damage he attributes to blasting for the project. He says the damage occurred between October 2016 and May 2017, and that representatives for the developer, Avangrid Renewables, told him the damage was unrelated to project blasting. Candiloro subsequently filed a complaint with the state, and on Nov. 8, the Public Utility Commission announced it will conduct an investigation. A prehearing conference in the matter was set for Friday in Montpelier.

According to the PUC's order announcing the investigation, Candiloro first filed a complaint with the state department's Consumer Affairs and Public Information Division, which investigated and reported to the PUC in August.

"At the conclusion of its investigation, CAPI concluded that it has adequate reason to believe that [the Deerfield Wind project] may have violated conditions of its certificate of public good, and that a commission investigation was required to obtain additional facts. CAPI recommended that Mr. Candiloro file a complaint with the commission."

The PUC said it will focus on whether the project's conditions for the required certificate of public good for the renewable energy facility were violated.

Asked to comment, Paul Copleman, communications manager for Avangrid Renewables, said via email, "Out of respect for the process, we won't comment on the specifics at this juncture, but we will cooperate fully with the state as we have throughout the permitting process."

Work on the project, which involves construction of wind turbine towers along Route 8 in both Searsburg and Readsboro, began in September 2016, and the 30-megawatt generating facility is expected to go online in 2018.

The project is a result of agreements with the U.S. Forest Service for use of land and a 25-year power-purchasing pact with Green Mountain Power.

Avangrid Renewables, formerly known as Iberdrola Renewables, is a U.S. renewable energy division of the Spain-based parent company, Iberdrola S.A.

In a telephone interview, Candiloro said he was told by a company representative prior to the blasting that his home "was too far away" for there to be a concern about damage. But he said that on the first day of blasting in that vicinity of the project site, "I heard a bang that sounded like something had hit my deck. I found a brick on my picnic table."

He said the brick came from his chimney, adding that the thermal sealing in some of his windows also was compromised, and that for a time "the house was shaking."

Candiloro said he provided the state agency with photographs of the damage.

In addition, he said he purchased the house in 2014 and had a complete home inspection at that time, which showed no such defects.

Part of the reason for the blasting was to install the 15 towers of approximately 255 feet in height, upon which the turbine blades will be mounted. The blades are from 144 to 160 feet in length, depending on the model, and weigh from 21,213 to 24,560 pounds each, according to the developer.

Jim Therrien writes for New England Newspapers in Southern Vermont and VTDigger.org. @BB_therrien on Twitter.

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