- Oct 12, 2022 9:19 pm GMT
Despite the high winds and flooding rains from Hurricane Ian, the lights stayed on at Babcock Ranch this month. Twelve miles northeast of hard-hit downtown Fort Myers, Babcock Ranch was directly in the path of destruction. Yet, the community never lost power.
The 18,000-acre development is powered with the help of nearly 700,000 solar panels, which can create enough clean energy to power nearly 30,000 homes. In addition to rooftop panels, the community includes solar tree charging stations, an 870-acre solar farm and battery storage. Its developers proudly call it “America's first sustainable solar-powered town.”
With only about 5,000 residents currently, the solar array powers the entire community — and then some. The excess goes back into the grid and is used to power surrounding residents and businesses. The community uses its stored power for electricity needs at night and on cloudy days, with a natural gas generator available to kick in if the need arises.
Babcock’s developers collaborated with Florida Power & Light (FPL) to bring their idea to life. The strength of the solar system and its ability to survive a storm like Ian can be credited to the utility who hardened infrastructure in and around the community. 150 mph winds didn't dislodge a single solar panel.
Additionally, all power lines to homes are underground, where they are protected from high winds, another winning feature of the area’s sustainable design.
With goals to get off the grid almost completely, the community’s developers feel they have a solution for future communities, not just in Florida, but around the country.
"The project's resiliency is a testimony to assuaging the concerns that solar installations are unable to handle some of the worst conditions Mother Nature has in store for them,” said Brian Olsen, Senior Energy Analyst at Questline Digital.
With proof that solar infrastructure can remain resilient during catastrophic weather events, there is high potential for increased adoption and development.
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