The First of Its Kind
Many cities have utilized solar energy to cut back on all of the non-renewable resources frequently used to provide us with power. Some cities and communities have even made the switch to using mostly solar energy. No other town in the country, however, has even been able to thrive on solar energy alone, and even have some leftover. Babcock Ranch in southwest Florida will be the first of its kind—it will not only provide its projected 50,000 residents with renewal solar power but will generate a surplus of energy. That energy will be connected to the power grid of surrounding areas.
This revolutionary town is a product of a partnership between Florida Power and Light and real estate developer Kitson and Partners, who have been planning Babcock Ranch for over a decade. Prior to the purchase of the land that is part of the Babcock Preserve, an area rich in local ecosystems and agriculture, the 74,000+ acre plot was owned by former Pittsburg Mayor Edward Babcock. The state of Florida, as well as the counties where the land is located, Charlotte and Lee Counties, had an interest in purchasing the land in order to preserve the largest expanse of undisturbed, natural land in the state.
Just as no other town has been built like Babcock Ranch, no other solar power plant has ever matched the size and power of that of the community. The Babcock solar energy plant will be over 440 acres large, which is over twice as big as the current largest one in the world. Florida Power and Light, the utility company behind the design of the plant, already ranks as one of the cleanest power companies in the country. This project will only serve to reinforce that standing. The energy produced from the plant will not only be clean, though. Residents will enjoy energy bills that are at least 30% than the average national energy bill, on average. The facility itself is so cost effective by design that even the cost of its operation will not affect consumers.
Larger solar energy plants such as the one that is currently underway at Babcock are more efficient in the “sunshine state” than are smaller home-based rooftop solar panels. Solar energy generated from a large-scale plant can generate over 2.5 times more usable energy than can the same dollar amount investment to build it if it were spread across different residences. The 74.5-megawatt energy plant at Babcock is one of several others planned by Florida Power and Light in the coming year.
The significance of a town powered entirely by solar power is not just the dollar amount saved, but the impact it has on both its residents and on the earth. If every city on earth continues its current energy practice of burning valuable and limited fossil fuels, those fuels will run out within the next few generations. Solar energy will not run out—it is a renewable resource because we can replenish it whenever there is sun, and it will not run out. Using solar energy also is a first step toward more sustainable and responsible living on the whole. It represents a lifestyle change toward one that is keeping the future of our planet in mind. Along with other sustainable practices that will be encouraged are gardening, physical fitness, and outdoor living.
A Sustainable Town with the Future in Mind
Babcock Ranch will set the bar high in many areas of infrastructure and lifestyle, not just in energy consumption. A revolutionary transportation system will also be implemented. Rather than relying on traditional cars, buses, or subways that rely on burning fossil fuels that harm the environment, the town will operate on a system of electric vehicles that run off of the solar energy produced on the ranch. This system will transport both people and goods from place to place and can be summoned by residents via their phones. The vehicles will be driverless and run by advanced technology.
Even though the solar energy produced at the central plant will be green and renewable, it will not be able to produce a limitless amount of energy at once. Consumers will work with the ranch to ensure energy is being used in a responsible way. Every building in the town, whether a residential home, a business, or a school, will be required to follow the guidelines necessary to be considered a green building, and will have a mechanism to monitor energy consumption. The buildings themselves at Babcock Ranch will be “smart” and energy efficient. The residences will each be built on a raised foundation to combat the Florida heat and aid in more efficient cooling. Insulation systems and windows will be constructed with state of the art technology that is meant to make both heating and cooling more efficient and effective as well. All lighting systems will use bulbs that use energy at maximum efficiency.
Babcock Ranch is still in its early stages but is already operating as a small community that is planned to quickly reach its projected maximum residency of 50,000 people. Over 1000 homes are already built in the town’s first neighborhood. Developers plan to expand the city south as it continues to grow, and four villages and five hamlets are planned. Once the town is fully constructed, it will truly be one of a kind both in the U.S. and in the world and will set the example for future developing or existing cities to follow.
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