Babcock Ranch is set to become Florida’s sustainable, innovative, and the world’s first solar-powered town! to include eco-friendly features such as farm-to-table restaurants, driverless shuttles, homes built with the latest green technology and a massive solar farm to offset energy use.
Syd Kitson, a retired American football player, originally dreamed up the vision for Babcock Ranch over a decade ago, and purchased the 93,000-acre ranch in southwestern Florida back in 2006. He sold most of the acres to the state as a wildlife preserve, only holding back 18,000 acres for his plan to build an environmentally friendly town on one half. The rest is meant for open spaces and nature.
Since then, the environmentally friendly area has been built from the ground up, as builders have been hard at work erecting homes that in the next two decades will host a community of about 50,000 people.
During a two-day Founders Fest this month, visitors streamed in and out to see the latest in energy-efficient designs in some of the model homes that have already been completed, including: outdoor kitchens, high ceilings, swimming pools, front porches with rocking chairs.
A key feature of Babcock Ranch is the 440-acre solar farm, which provides enough energy to the local utility, Florida Power and Light, to offset the energy use of nearly 20,000 homes.
Electric cars and driver-less shuttles
Babcock Ranch hopes to incorporate an advanced public and private transportation system of shared, driverless vehicles. Employees use electric cars, which they charge up with orange cords. They are also testing a driverless, battery-powered shuttle called EasyMile, to transport up to 12 people at one go. The shuttle leisurely covers half a mile at a time, at less than 10 miles per hour, and halts automatically if anyone happens to cross its path. But Babcock Ranch’s goal is to be easy to get around on foot with 50 miles of trails.
A space for container gardens is earmarked and crops will recycle irrigated water.
The initial downtown district buildings will feature a wellness center, a market café, lakeside restaurant, educational facilities and an outdoor outfitters where residents and visitors can explore expansive lakes and the trail system. When the town is completed, there’s 6 million square feet of commercial and community space while more than half of the total land is dedicated to green spaces, lakes and nature trails.
The town is an interesting experiment in sustainability – there’s no doubt that we need to reconsider the way we live and adapt keeping the environment in mind. However, could this affect the panther population and its passage across land? Will development around Babcock Ranch cause any adverse effects on wildlife? It remains to be seen but if this model works, it could pave the way for greener towns and cities for a sustainable future.
Check out more about Florida’s Babcock Ranch on their website.