Southwest Florida doesn’t have the reputation of its eastern counterpart. Of course, it is hard for any area of the country to compete with the beautiful beaches and vibrant culture of Miami in Dade County, but one development company is hoping to help Southwest Florida become a premiere destination. A real estate development firm called Kitson & Partners wants to build the kind of city that has never been built before. They want it to run on solar power alone, and they want to call it Babcock Ranch.
The city of tomorrow, tomorrow
The Babcock Ranch plans are incredibly ambitious. They want to build a city fueled entirely by the sun that is larger than the island of Manhattan. Babcock Ranch will have 18,000 homes, six million square feet of commerce, and ample space for trails, parks, and lakes—and K&P wants to build it over the course of just 25 years. Syd Kitson, chairman of the development group, said he wants to make Babcock Ranch the country’s most hikeable, bikeable, walkable city. Indeed, environmental friendliness is paramount for Babcock Ranch. Kitson said in this promotional video, “We take our stewardship responsibilities very seriously and have taken steps to ensure that the city of Babcock Ranch will exist in complete harmony with its surroundings.” The development of Babcock Ranch will be a fascinating challenge.
How will they do this?
Babcock Ranch will be the first city in America to be built on the sun. Of course, this doesn’t mean astronauts will attempt to set foot on a ball of gas that burns at 9900 degrees fahrenheit. It means that the cornerstone of Babcock Ranch will be the solar industry. Kitson has donated a plot of land that will host the FPL (Florida Power and Light Company) Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center. That 440-acre plant, the cornerstone of the town, will provide 74.5 megawatts of solar capacity to the people of Babcock Ranch.
As a Babcock Ranch fact sheet says, it makes sense to build a community around solar in Southwest Florida. “With its Southwest Florida location,” the sheet reads, “which has the state’s most intense sunlight, the solar plant will generate three to five percent more solar production.” Of course, for Babcock Ranch to work, government officials will have to be friendly to solar development, businesses and homeowners will have to buy in, and the solar plant will have to keep humming. But if Babcock Ranch can stay on track, Southwest Florida of 2040 could be the Southeast Florida of 2017.