'Hometown of Tomorrow' Kept Power on During Ian

Florida's Babcock Ranch, US' 'first solar-powered town,' didn't lose electricity
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Oct 3, 2022 12:28 PM CDT
'Hometown of Tomorrow' Kept Power on During Ian
Stock photo of solar panels on a Florida roof.   (Getty Images/Glen Richard)

The stories out of Florida in the wake of Hurricane Ian are harrowing and devastating, with a death toll that continues to climb. One town in the western part of the state, however, fared better than most, with Ian serving as a "true test for the community," per CNN. That's because Babcock Ranch, which sits 12 miles northeast of Fort Myers, calls itself America's "first solar-powered town" and one that serves as "the blueprint for the hometown of tomorrow." Included in that claim is a solar array run by Florida Power and Light, made up of 700,000 individual panels that keep the electricity flowing in the town of 2,000 homes.

The Babcock Ranch neighborhood, which gained its first residents in 2018, is a "meticulously planned" one that has the advantage of being built at a minimum of 25 feet above sea level. Other storm-ready fortifications include native landscapes to contain floodwaters, power and internet lines moved underground, and residences built to withstand winds of up to 145mph; even park benches and street lights can handle up to a Category 3 storm. The green way of life there has taken over in other ways, too, with many locals driving electric cars and bolstering their homes with battery systems in case the power goes out.

So how did Babcock Ranch, built along the Charlotte County-Lee County line, fare during the big storm? While about 2.6 million customers in Florida saw their power knocked out after Ian swept through, including 90% of Charlotte County, no electricity or internet was lost in Babcock Ranch. Local Anthony Grande says the only damage appears to be a few shingles blown off of roofs and uprooted trees. "It certainly exceeded our expectations," he tells CNN. (More here on Babcock Ranch, the brainchild of former Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys player Syd Kitson.)

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