America’s First Solar City is Florida Born

by KATHY MEGYERI                                                   Photos courtesy Babcock Ranch

  

As we celebrate Earth Day 2018, it seems fitting that America’s first sun-powered city is sprouting up in the Sunshine State.

Babcock Ranch city, an approximately 17,000-acre planned community under development in Southwest Florida (between Punta Gorda and Fort Myers), began welcoming residents in January and held an official grand opening on March
10. It’s expected that 500 residents will call this futuristic town home by the end of the year and 50,000 will move here eventually for its pro-environment lifestyle.

Driving the development is a large power station composed of more than 340,000 photovoltaic solar panels on 440 acres as well as a network of rooftop solar panels on commercial buildings. More are planned in the future. Operated by Florida Power & Light, the panels are intended to produce more electricity than will be consumed. The current solar cells can power 15,000 homes with zero emissions—equivalent to removing 12,000 cars from the road every year. FPL says that its investment in this project has reduced the use of oil by more than 98% and has saved customers $8.6 billion in fuel.

In partnership with the National Audubon Society, FPL is creating a safe haven for pollinator species by planting native plants and wildflowers to attract butterflies, honeybees, and other critical species. In addition, the town’s layout improves existing flowering and wetland ecosystems.

Self-driving shuttles on what’s become the nation’s first autonomous shuttle network ferries visitors to model homes and Founder’s Square, the center of commerce which includes charming options like an ice cream shop, a general store, a farm-to-table restaurant, and a large health and wellness center.

Town ambassadors give touch-screen presentations as lime-green solar trees capture and transmit energy. It is promised that 50 percent of the total 18,000-acre town footprint will be preserved and accessible via a 50-mile network of trails for hiking, biking and horseback riding, and that over 5,000 new trees will be planted. Perks include locally grown produce and a solar-environmental center.

Kitson & Partners, the real estate development firm that facilitated what ranks as the largest conservation land acquisition in Florida history, has stated their
goal is for Babcock Ranch to be the “world’s most sustainable city.”

Babcock Ranch was first owned by Edward Babcock, a lumber baron who bought the land in 1914. Fred, his son, added vegetable farming and primitive swamp tours in the ‘30s, but when he died in 1997, his heirs sold their 91,000 acres to Florida developer Syd Kitson who sold 73,000 acres to the state for $350
million.

Kitson’s plan is to eventually construct 19,500 single family homes, townhouses and condos that currently range in price from the $190,000s to the $900,000s. They will meet Florida Green Building Coalition standards and be constructed in a myriad of architectural styles: Craftsman, Farmhouse, Coastal Surf Vernacular, Spanish, and Colonial/West Indies, to evoke a simpler time when neighbors knew and cared for one another,” Kitson said.

Babcock Ranch
42850 Crescent Loop • Babcock, FL
Model Home Hours: daily 10 a.m. -5 p.m.
Info: 941-200-1507 or visit babcockranch.com

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