In 2016, the first solar panels were installed in Babcock Ranch, Florida, the Hometown of Tomorrow. Babcock Ranch considers itself to be the country’s first solar-powered town. They have become a beacon for solar energy, with over 700,00 panels installed over 800 acres. This week we will take a closer look at what Backcock Ranch means for solar energy and how it can develop in America.
Babcock Ranch has been a 14-year project for developer Syd Kitson. Syd’s dream reached fruition in 2018 when he started accepting residents. Kison played in the NFL as an offensive lineman for the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers. Perhaps Syd’s football career helped him develop an appreciation for teamwork as he teamed up with Florida Power and Light (FPL) to build and operate the solar project for Babcock Ranch. FPL installed 10 megawatts of lithium battery storage, with several residents contributing by installing their own residential solar panels and storage systems. This created a master community capable of supporting a population of 50,000 with 20,000 homes. Babcock Ranch is a remarkable feat built on approximately 18,000 acres of land an hour East of Sarasota. The acquired land was originally part of a 90,000-acre ranch. PBS NewsHour’s Miles O’Brien said,
“It’s a back-to-the-future approach to development, which Syd Kitson has embraced. The old Babcock Ranch property was 90,000 acres. But his development will sit on only a fifth of it. He sold the rest back to the state to be set aside. And in some cases, he brought the land back to its natural state. This wetland had been drained for agriculture.”
O’Brien continued, “A developer who has created some swampland in Florida. Go figure.”
Currently, the town has a little more than 2,000 residents. O’Brien stated that Babcock Ranch has “900 homes. And it already feels like a town, with a Main Street, a green with a bandshell, shops, and offices. Nearly all the amenities are planned. It will all eventually be connected by autonomous electric shuttles. For now, golf carts and electric scooters are the preferred means of mobility.” Babcock Ranch is experiencing rapid growth. In August 2020, Sarasota Magazine’s Ilene Denton reported that the population was 1,400 people. Denton continues,
“The new charter Babcock Ranch Neighborhood School offers classes for students in grades K-9; other upper grade levels will be added as the community grows. Under construction now south of the main entrance is the Crescent B Commons shopping center, anchored by a Publix. It’s expected to be completed in 2021.”
Babcock Ranch serves as an idyllic community that offers so much to its residents. The town is an excellent case study for sustainable cities.
Babcock Ranch Proves Solar Is The Future
As of now, Babcock Ranch isn’t operating off 100% renewable energy. The 10 MW of solar storage is not enough. In times when not enough solar energy is stored, Natural Gas provides the fuel. Eventually, Babcock ranch looks to reduce its dependence on Natural Gas to zero. The outlook is a substantial positive environmentally, as it continues to grow and innovate. It’s a beautiful opportunity to showcase what solar can do for a town and its residents. However, most people live in homes that are ready to be converted, not communities built with 800 acres of solar panels. Most people in America don’t live in Babcock Ranch. That’s where we come in. For those looking to take advantage of solar energy and eliminate their carbon footprint, residential rooftop solar systems are a viable option. RegionSolar looks to serve the Suncoast community with its solar needs. If you would like a free quote, click here.