Tucked into a corner of Southwest Florida about a half-hour from Fort Myers, Babcock Ranch is what developer Syd Kitson calls the most sustainable new community in America and the first solar-powered town in the country.
Babcock Ranch started when Kitson, a former NFL player for the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys, purchased the 91,000-acre ranch in 2006. Shortly after, he sold 73,000 acres of the ranch to the state of Florida to be put into preservation, with plans to build his town on the remaining 18,000 acres.
What followed was an eight-year-long slog of working through red tape in order to get the permits to build the first 350,000-panel solar field to power the future town.
The eight years it took to get the Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center built helped usher in a new state-wide effort by Florida Power and Light to vastly expand solar plants throughout the state. By the end of Florida Power and Light’s solar push, about 40 percent of the state’s electricity will come from solar, while the remainder will come from natural gas and nuclear power plants.