Babcock Ranch, America’s first green city to run on solar energy
by Benjamin Fontaine published on October 20, 2020
In 2017, a green bubble was born in the heart of Florida. The town of Babcock Ranch rose from the ground to welcome Americans in search of a life closer to nature. Babcock Ranch is powered by solar energy, a first in the United States.
In the land of oil and air conditioning, there is an “oasis” where a few hundred American families meet today. Babcock Ranch is located in the heart of Florida. Emerging from the earth in 2017, this city was imagined by Syd Kitson, a former American football player who became a real estate developer.
Named America’s first green city, Babcock Ranch runs on solar power alone. A farm with 700,000 solar panels has been built north of the city. “We produce what we need and what we don’t use into the grid to power homes around,” says Syd Kitson.
At first glance, Babcock Ranch looks like a chic little suburban American town. With a few details. Wide bicycle paths, so rare in the United States, were marked along the roads. The few vehicles you see are electric golf carts.
30,000 hectares of preserved nature
In the main square, solar trees have been planted. These masts, on top of which solar panels have been installed, allow you to capture wifi and recharge your mobile phone.
“The achievement of this dream was the fruit of long negotiations with our partner Florida Power & Light and with the State of Florida,” says Syd Kitson. “In 2006, we sold 30,000 of the 37,000 hectares we owned to the state making sure that this area was preserved. It had never been done. The rest we used to build the city and develop it. ”
Due to the economic crisis, the project was delayed and the first inhabitants did not put their bags down until January 2018. Robert and Robin Kinley are retired. They lived in Orlando before arriving at Babcock Ranch. “It was when we saw the sunset that we made up our minds,” Robin smiles. “The next day we went to sign for the field. We were the first to joke, I asked to be named honorary mayor,” jokes Robert.
The couple now live in a 223m2 house bought for more than 400,000 euros, double the prices in the region. They have a view of the lake that bears their name, and where it is not uncommon to see a few alligators. The local fauna does not seem to be really bothered by the locals.
Their large house was built respecting the latest environmental standards. The roof is made of metal to save energy and more easily withstand the hurricanes that rob Robin so much. “By coming here we wanted to escape the pollution and noise of the city,” says the former French teacher.
A closed circuit water network
The couple have also invested in an electric car and plan to install solar panels in the coming months. “Our electricity bills have gone down considerably and if we install solar panels we will pay even less!”
At Babcock Ranch, the water system operates in a closed circuit. Wastewater is recycled. They are used in particular to water the community gardens, some fruits and vegetables of which are found in the restaurants of the main square. To decorate their garden, the inhabitants must plant trees or local flowers.
The housing estates are built around several lakes. No less than 80 kilometers of trails have been developed to allow runners and walkers to exercise. “I run every morning before going to work, it’s great you can enjoy nature, admire the landscapes,” says Shanon, who teaches at the city school. The establishment now accommodates 500 students from kindergarten to college. “Sustainable development, environmental protection, food are at the heart of our program and we rely on the city to explain it to the students.”
Objective: 50,000 inhabitants within 20 years
To avoid neighborhood conflicts, politics often stays out of the discussion, but you won’t find climate skeptics in the city. “I think here we have part of the solution to limiting global warming,” says Robert Kinley.
Far from being a utopia, Babcock Ranch is now home to 2,000 residents, half of whom are young couples with children. The houses sell for between 170,000 and 700,000 euros. The goal of promoter Syd Kitson is to reach 50,000 inhabitants.
Click Here to read the story in its original French
Click Here to listen to the radio report broadcast from Radio France (Babcock feature 0:21 minutes into the national program called “Inter”)
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