Adobe Stock/Elenathewise

Florida’s Babcock Ranch is billing itself as the the country’s first solar-powered city, says CityLab contributor Richard Luscombe.

Property developer Syd Kitson already has 440 acres of solar panels at the community, which he envisions consisting of 19,500 homes with a downtown, schools, restaurants, shopping and leisure facilities, and more than 50 miles of nature trails for walkers, runners, and cyclists. When completed, the city will have about 50,000 residents.

At a cursory glance, Babcock appears little different from numerous other planned communities around Florida. It has single-family detached houses arranged into neighborhoods, and the seven homebuilders that partnered with Kitson offer a range of models from two to five bedrooms, priced from the $190,000s to more than half a million dollars. The sales pitch rests on their high-tech and green features. These are Alexa-controlled smart homes with 1-gigabit fiber internet and wiring for electric cars in every garage; kitchens and laundry rooms piped for natural gas cooktops, ranges, and dryers; and metal roofs to reduce heating and cooling costs.

Additionally, homeowners are encouraged to grow vegetables in community gardens, landscaping is limited to native plants (with turf covering no more than 30 percent of yard space), and all irrigation water is reclaimed.

Kitson describes Babcock Ranch as “a living laboratory,” with energy self-sufficiency at its core. All public and commercial buildings with good exposure have roofs covered with solar panels, and solar “trees” are dotted around the public areas to bolster the power supply and provide recharge stations for visitors’ cell phones, tablets, and laptops