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April 13,2018 - Florida community set to become nation's first solar-powered town
Orlando Weekly

Posted By Trimmel Gomes, Florida News Connection on Mon, Apr 2, 2018 at 10:45 am
One brand-new Florida town has taken its first steps toward becoming completely solar powered. Babcock Ranch, just north of Fort Myers, already has residents moving in and businesses looking to get in on the action.

The town’s developers hope its success will keep the federal government from imposing high tariffs on solar energy, and keep the energy source in private hands rather than government-controlled. Babcock Ranch developer Syd Kitson says Florida has done a good job of embracing solar energy.

“I think the state of Florida has really, over the last several years, realized that it’s the Sunshine State, and that this is a great opportunity for a renewable energy source for the state of Florida,” says Kitson.

He says Babcock Ranch should see about 250 families moving into the area within the year. President Donald Trump imposed tariffs on solar panels made outside of the U.S. earlier this year, although opponents say that could cost thousands of jobs and billions of investment dollars for the solar industry.

Kitson says the land for the ranch was purchased in 2006, and more than 90 percent of it is being preserved for wildlife. For the homes and businesses, Florida Power and Light partnered with town founders to build a 75 megawatt solar-generating facility that’s already working.

Kitson says energy prices are comparable to other power sources, and the home prices were set to attract a wide range of buyers.

“We have homes priced from anywhere from, you know, the high ones, low $200,000s, up to $1 million. What we’re trying to do is create a full stratification of pricing and products for people to move into Babcock Ranch.”

He adds that autonomous transportation shuttles are already in the works, along with a gigabyte of fiber in every home.

Florida Politics “Sunburn” – morning read of what’s hot in Florida Politics – includes the following:

— FOR YOUR RADAR —
Ranging from dissecting a fiery Trump tweet about DACA to examining what can be done to help endangered species in Florida, there’s a lot to unpack in the latest episode of The Rotunda.
But for some, the most ear-catching moment of Trimmel Gomes’ wide-ranging podcast this week is a part about a private-sector backed, solar-energy utopia sprouting north of Fort Myers: Babcock Ranch.
Alongside developer Syd Kitson, whose company Kitson & Partners is completing Babcock Ranch with Florida Power & Light, Gomes gives listeners a glimpse of the future.
It’s in the name: “I think the state of Florida really over the past several years realized that it’s the ‘Sunshine State’ and that [solar energy] is a great opportunity for a renewable energy source,” Kitson says in the interview, explaining what led him to build “the most sustainable new town in the country.”
The numbers: According to Kitson, Babcock Ranch will have just under 20,000 homes and 6 million square feet of retail space. FPL has built a solar facility capable of powering the town and what Kitson claims is the world’s largest solar-to-battery storage unit. Ninety-percent of the initial purchase is dedicated to preservation, and 250 families are expected to move into the community this year. Home prices range from the high $100s to $1 million to attract multiple generations.
More context: Gomes brings up Trump-imposed tariffs on solar panels as a possible deterrent to solar in the state, but Kitson says that private utilities should be capable of keeping costs low. In Babcock Ranch, homeowners will pay rates equivalent to FPL customers elsewhere, “the only difference is that … [when Babcock Ranch owners] turn on a light switch in their home, it’s solar energy.”