Downtown Babcock Ranch, a community built with renewable energy, kept the lights on during the storm. (Image credit: Babcock Ranch)
Just outside of Fort Meyers, Florida, lies the town of Babcock Ranch, a unique community built around sustainable energy and branded as "America's first solar-powered town." As hurricane Ian battered most of the state and left millions without power, Babcock Ranch managed to keep its lights on and suffered very little damage. The town, with a population of roughly 50,000, gets its power from an 870-acre solar array made up of 650,000 solar panels that generate up to 150 megawatts of energy.
The community's core vision prioritized nurturing a healthy environment through sustainability and technology while maintaining a thriving ecosystem. "At Babcock Ranch, technology and nature work together to create a fully-connected town that will thrive for generations to come," states the town's website. "Our hometown is equipped with high-speed fiber optic internet, solar-powered renewable energy, and energy-efficient homes."
As with any solar array, the town was built with enough battery banks to store that energy during adverse weather and other emergencies. Moreover, that notion of sustainability and resiliency was built into the community itself, such as residing above the storm surge areas with streets designed to minimize flooding. Even the field house at Babcock High School doubles as a storm shelter. Even the town's power and internet cables are buried deep enough to protect them from the elements. The community currently resides on 17,000 acres, and there are plans to expand the community to serve nearly 20,000 homes, which is exceptional, considering half that acreage is dedicated to parks, lakes and greenways.
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