BRATTLEBORO -- The nation's second-largest wind power operator wants to be the first to develop a utility-scale wind project on national forest land in the Green Mountain State.

Spanish wind giant Iberdrola Renewables defended the project in federal court Wednesday.

Wind opponents have challenged the company's special use permit to build a 30 megawatt project in the Green Mountain National Forest.

The company in April 2009 received a certificate of public good to build 15 turbines on a ridge that divides Searsburg and Readsboro. It has also received a special use permit from the USDA Forest Service to develop the project on national forest lands.

The 5,000-acre George D. Aiken Wilderness is located about 1.5 miles to the west of the proposed project site.

Renewable energy use and development is one of the goals established in the 2006 Green Mountain National Forest plan prepared by the USDA Forest Service.

The anti-wind group Vermonters for a Clean Environment sued the U.S. Forest Service in 2012 for permitting the company to build in the national forest.

Annette Smith, the group's executive director, said the project would set a "national precedent" because it would for the first time allow development on national forest in sensitive ecological areas.

U.S. District Judge Garvan Murtha heard the oral arguments Tuesday and his decision is pending.


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