A look at the first solar powered town in the USA

People have started the process of moving into new homes in what has been labeled as the first solar-powered community in the United States. The Babcock Ranch which is located in Florida is forecast to produce more energy than it will consume once completed.

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Figure: Babcock Ranch, Florida is being developed from the ground up with sustainability in mind.

The site consists of over 300,000 solar panels over a land space in excess of 400 acres. The site will produce energy for the town itself and surrounding areas. Within the new town, people will leave vehicles in garages and take shared rides in self-driving shuttle transport.

The developer, Syd Kitson emphasised that the plan is to make this the most sustainable new town in the US. Kitson highlights that the town has the added advantage of a green landscape and a blank canvas to create it the ‘right way’ from the beginning.  Kitson adds that there will no be additional expense to build or live in a place like Babcock Ranch. People will pay the same amounts as others pay towards the Florida Power and Light network.
Developers also highlight that the town will not be affected by hurricanes. When Hurricane Irma hit Florida, the eye of the storm traveled directly over Babcock Ranch without destroying any of the solar panels on site.

One challenge, however, is the heavy reliance on solar means when the sun is down, the town requires energy from the electrical grid system. Kitson suggests that storage would be the option but costs are too high to integrate a storage facility for surplus solar energy created during the day.

A further challenge is the number of overcast days. A series of cloudy days does affect efficiency and energy availability. However, Kitson also emphasises that it is Florida and generally ‘cloudy days’ will include periods of sunshine.

Some of the first residents began moving into their new homes last month. Residents have commented on the innovation in Babcock Ranch and efficient systems in place. Prices for properties do vary with a three bedroom home in the Ranch can be purchased for $195,000. A large four bedroom two-story house on the lake is listed at $750,000. Over three-quarters of the land purchased by Kitson will not be developed, instead, it has been sold to the Florida state and converted into a wildlife preserve.

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