Enviromental

Babcock Ranch-An Ecologically Sound-Designed Community.

Sitting on a 7,000-hectare stretch of land in southwest Florida, Babcock Ranch has made a name for itself as the first solar-powered town in the United States. Its power comes from nearly 700,000 solar panels that supply energy to more than 2,000 homes and other buildings, including a health center and schools. Babcock Ranch was built on a higher elevation to be above the storm surge. The buildings were constructed to withstand hurricane-force winds.  {Courtesy of Deborah Block VOA }

Syd Kitson, the founder of the planned community, envisioned an environmentally friendly energy-efficient city. His dream became a reality in 2018.

“I believed deeply in respecting the environment and wanted to prove that you could build this new city and work hand-in-hand with the environment,” said Kitson, CEO of the real estate firm Kitson & Partners. “Our water management system is based around natural floodways. We also have 7,000 hectares we are preserving.”

The preserve protects natural habitats, scenic landscapes, and water resources.”It was just the kind of community my husband and I were looking for,” Shannon Treece told VOA. “We liked that the town was built for sustainability, including solar energy.”

An array of more than 700,000 solar panels provides power to the town. (Courtesy Babcock Ranch)
An array of more than 700,000 solar panels provides power to the town. (Courtesy Babcock Ranch)
Today, Babcock Ranch is also known as the town that came out practically unscathed on Sept. 28, when Hurricane Ian roared through the area bringing record winds and flooding.

That’s because power lines from Babcock Ranch’s solar array and utility plants are underground, which shields them from high winds and bad weather, Kitson said.

Huge retaining ponds protect the homes from flooding, and the streets are designed to soak up floodwaters.

When building the town, “we spent a lot of time making sure Babcock Ranch was storm ready,” Kitson said. “We had minor damage from Hurricane Ian, like some downed small trees and torn roof shingles, but within a day, we were almost back to normal.”

The homes at Babcock Ranch were designed to withstand hurricane-force winds. They sustained practically no damage during Hurricane Ian on Sept. 28, 2022, which brought winds over 160 kph. On the right, a few shingles were torn off the roof of a garage. (Courtesy Babcock Ranch)

There are lessons to be learned from Babcock Ranch.

It can be a model for other communities, showing the importance of water management and using solar energy,  also showing how neighborhoods can live in concert with nature, partly by requiring that native plant species be planted in the community.”

The blueprint for the town is to grow into a much larger city. The developers have their sights set on constructing thousands more environmentally friendly homes, which would increase the population to 50,000 residents.

“I hope we are setting a good example for others to follow as we continue to protect the natural environment at the same time,” Kitson said.

When Hurricane Ian made landfall on the southwest Florida coast, it brought 150mph (241km/h) winds, 17 inches (43cm) of rain within 24 hours, and storm surges of up to 18ft (5.5m). It was the costliest hurricane in Florida’s history, causing more than $112bn (£88bn) in damage – and at least 150 deaths.

The category four storm, which hit Florida on 28 September 2022, knocked out power to more than four million people in the state and caused catastrophic flooding.

Amid the calamity, there was one community that weathered the storm surprisingly well: Babcock Ranch, an 18,000-acre (73 sq km) development that was sitting in the eye of the storm, on the southwest of the state, just north of Fort Myers. Built to withstand powerful storms, the town came out relatively unscathed.

Although it was not in the direct line of Hurricane Idalia when it swept across the southeastern United States at the end of August, the town may yet get to prove its resilience again this year.

The 2023 hurricane season is expected to be even more severe than the one experienced in 2022. Atmospheric scientists at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have predicted an “above normal” season, with as many as five major hurricanes – which would bring winds of 111mph and higher.
Florida is more likely to flood than any other state in the US due to its flat terrain. Despite this, only 18% of Florida homes have flood insurance – some residents even report their insurance would be more than their rent. A recent study found the cost of insurance was projected to increase by 40% in 2023. Exacerbating the issue is the explosive population growth and subsequent housing development that’s taken place over the past century – much of it on the wetlands that would normally help prevent flooding. Over the next 50 years, Florida’).s population is expected to increase by another 12 million people, and the proportion of land developed could jump from 18% to 28% – an increase of 3.5m acres (14,000 sq km
Building Babcock Ranch took years of planning and thoughtful design. Kitson’s team consulted maps from the 1940s to find out where the natural flowways of the land lay – essentially, where water would channel through during periods of high rainfall. Over decades, the flows had been changed to make way for farming, developments, and other manmade purposes. “I told my planners ‘Forget where they are today because the land has been drained’. You can’t mess with Mother Nature, because Mother Nature is going to win every single time. We went and found these natural flows and we said we’d keep out of them and build around them.”
Doing so meant the area’s wetlands, which are adept at soaking up and holding rainwater, would be preserved. And in heavy rainfall events, when the wetlands are overburdened with water, the flow ways can carry the water down to Caloosahatchee River, because they have not been built on and so prevent flooding.

 

Conclusion
It’s refreshing that some land developers are finally waking up to the fact that they have to address it. 

 

  1. Solar-Powered: Babcock Ranch is designed to be powered almost entirely by solar energy. The town has a massive solar field with thousands of solar panels, making it one of the largest solar installations in the state of Florida. This renewable energy source provides power for the community, including its homes, businesses, and streetlights.
  2. Green Building Practices: The town promotes green building practices, encouraging residents to construct energy-efficient homes that meet environmentally friendly standards. This includes features like high-efficiency insulation, windows, and HVAC systems, which reduce energy consumption and lower carbon emissions.
  3. Conservation and Open Space: Babcock Ranch is surrounded by nature and wildlife habitats. The community includes a large amount of protected open space, preserves, and parks to ensure that the local ecosystem is conserved and protected. This dedication to conservation helps preserve the natural beauty of the region.
  4. Sustainable Transportation: The town promotes eco-friendly transportation options, including walking and cycling trails, electric vehicle charging stations, and a comprehensive transportation plan that aims to reduce the need for car travel. This approach reduces the community’s carbon footprint and promotes healthier lifestyles.
  5. Energy-Efficient Streetlights: Babcock Ranch uses smart LED streetlights that are energy-efficient and equipped with motion sensors, so they only activate when needed. This reduces light pollution and energy consumption.
  6. Community Gardens: The town includes community gardens where residents can grow their produce. This promotes sustainability, reduces food miles, and encourages a sense of community.
  7. Educational Opportunities: Babcock Ranch offers programs focused on environmental conservation and sustainable living. The town’s commitment to education helps spread awareness and knowledge about ecological best practices.
  8. Wildlife Corridors: The town has created wildlife corridors and greenways that allow wildlife to move freely through the community without disruption. This helps protect local fauna and maintain ecological balance.
  9. Dark Sky-Friendly Lighting: Babcock Ranch employs dark sky-friendly lighting to reduce light pollution and minimize the impact on the natural night environment.
  10. Smart City Features: The town incorporates smart city technology to optimize resource use and improve services. This includes efficient water management, waste reduction, and energy conservation.
Babcock Ranch serves as a model for sustainable urban planning, demonstrating how a modern, comfortable, and thriving community can coexist with nature while reducing its environmental impact. Its approach to solar power, green building practices, conservation, and education showcases a commitment to a more ecologically sound and environmentally responsible way of living.
The following links add some Plausibility to the  Babcock Ranch and research other shoreline sustaining methods. 

livingshorelinesacademy.org

shipstosea.com/sanibel-island-hurricane-ian

ocean rise

 

Similar Posts