June 7, 2010
Planning and designing is already underway at Babcock Ranch, Florida, the first fully sustainable city in the United States.
Developer Kitson & Partners announced on Monday that it has selected IBM to supply the software necessary to design the city’s “extensive” technology systems, which include transportation, energy efficiency and broadband Internet connectivity.
The $2 billion city, which was first announced in April 2009 and declared the nation’s 'first solar-powered city,' has now expanded to include elements of conservation, community and urban planning. The land was originally purchased in 2006.
The mega-development, as some have called it, is said to include 6 million square feet of retail, commercial, office, civic and light industrial space across 17,000 acres of land.
The entire city will have wireless Internet connectivity. Its 75-megawatt solar panel array will occupy 400 acres of land, as well as rooftops.
To ensure energy consistency, Babcock Ranch will be connected to the main power grid: on sunny days, its surplus electricity will be exported to the main grid; on cloudy days, it will import power as necessary.
The developers’ challenge — besides encouraging people to come to coastal southwest Florida after one of the largest oil spills in history — is integrating its solar power, smart grid (with consumer-facing consumption monitoring) and green building practices into a working whole.
The good news? It's easier to do this in a new development than retrofitting an existing one.
The question is whether Florida, land of suburban sprawl, can go beyond the surface and plan for a truly green, truly smart city that doesn’t rely on the automobile — in other words, no long drives among its more than 8,000 acres of greenways and open space.
The good news? The IBM partnership should allow them to test all of these connected systems at once, at scale. Which means Florida’s "city of tomorrow" will be a very useful laboratory for implementing future technologies in a way that can be copied in other locations.
Or as FPL chief development officer Eric Silagy said in a Naples Daily News report:
Babcock Ranch will be a model that can be duplicated across the country. That’s what we’re hoping to produce.
Infrastructure construction is expected to begin this year, with home building slated for 2011.