The American Solar Town
Babcock Ranch, a small town near Fort Myers in Florida, will be the first solar powered town in America. Running on 300,000 solar panels, the small town will produce enough electricity for itself as well as its surrounding area. Babcock Ranch’s founder, Syd Kitson wants to make Babcock Ranch a city of the future.
Families have now started moving into Babcock Ranch and founder, Syd Kitson intends to have a fully operational town very soon. CBS News states that, "developers are building around 20,000 homes for a projected 50,000 people." The massive 440 acre solar field is operated by Florida Power and Light on land donated by Syd Kitson. As CBS News states, Babcock Ranch "will serve as an example of sustainability."
Babcock Ranch also operates a brand new and unorthodox method of transportation-- A self driving shuttle bus. As ABC News points out, “there are only 65 like it in the world,” making it an extremely rare piece of technology. The same report stated that it “follows its course to within one centimeter of accuracy,” showing how safe and reliable the vehicle is. There are also multiple safety facilities inside the vehicle itself such as the SOS button, and an operator can offer advice on how to fix the problem or fix it remotely themselves, in the event of an emergency. In an interview with ABC News, Kitson stated that Babcock Ranch “will start off with one shuttle and then introduce more,” as the shuttle is still in its testing stages. This shuttle bus is zero emissions and runs on solar energy, making it an eco friendly option. In fact, the entire city runs on solar power, including “street lamps [and] buildings” according to CBS News. All of this tech is to help make Babcock Ranch “the most sustainable new town in the United States” as Kitson states in an interview with CBS. The same interview addressed many of the concerns that many have about a solar powered town. For instance, Kitson dismisses the claim that living in Babcock Ranch is more expensive by arguing that people pay the same amount of money to Florida Power and Light as any other customer anywhere else in the network. Considering Babcock Ranch’s location near Florida’s Coast, one has to be concerned about the hurricanes and storms that frequently visit this part of the world. In the same CBS interview, Kitson was asked about the risk of solar panels breaking apart when a hurricane hits the area. He responded by stating that “The Ida storm came right over the top of Babcock Ranch. Not one panel, of 343,000 panels, was dislodged,” reassuring everyone that Babcock ranch is capable of holding its own against a powerful storm.
Despite its upsides, solar power has some drawbacks. One drawback is that it cannot be powered over night. Although there is technology out there that stores solar energy like Tesla’s power wall, it is not at a stage where it can store the massive amounts of excess energy at an affordable price. Therefore, Babcock Ranch resorts to using energy from a nearby natural gas plant. Another vulnerability of the solar energy system exposes itself when there are too many overcast days. Kitson concedes by saying, "if you have a number of cloudy days in a row, it will impact the efficiency."
Babcock Ranch may be small, but it represents a movement much larger than itself. The integration of solar energy and renewable technologies sets up an example for others to follow. Implementing this technology in larger cities with pre-existing systems is bound to be challenging. However, with improving technology and growing awareness of the dangers of climate change, it seems more possible than ever before to create the city of the future.
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