October 02, 2017

America’s first solar city, Babcock Ranch, escapes Irma’s grip

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

September 29, 2017

PUNTA GORDA, Fla.  A town powered by solar energy fared well during Hurricane Irma. Babcock Ranch uses the solar panels to keep the lights on.

Rick Vorell, Babcock Ranch town ambassador said, “People that have been coming in you can see the stress when they talk about going through the storms and having to experience that, having to worry about the flooding, the storm surge.”

The sheer destruction of Hurricane Irma left behind thousands of homes and businesses in the dark.

Vorell says some are looking to Babcock Ranch as their shining solar solution. “I had a couple in this morning a nice couple from Sanibel and they said just that. That they lived through Hurricane Charley and they experienced Hurricane Irma and they didn’t want to do it again.”

America’s first solar city, escaped Irma, it’s first major weather event, with minor damage but did lose power during the storm, something president of Babcock Ranch Rick Severance says isn’t likely to happen again.

“It turned out to be a very simple fix once we were able to figure out what the problem was so because our lines are buried and we have a direct feed to our solar farm we shouldn’t have that problem. We’ll have a level of resiliency and redundancy in the future.” Severance said.

Across Southwest Florida Irma destroyed homes, blew down signs and flooded entire neighborhoods. The neighborhood school, restaurant and shops reopened and Babcock was back in business in just four days.

Severance say it wouldn’t have taken that long if they had people that lived there already. “For us it was really more about all of the communities that already have residents. There were so many thousands of people in need and FPL really needed to focus on those folks that were in dire straights.”

Irma hasn’t slowed down construction or interest in the solar city. The first homeowners are expected to move into Babcock Ranch later this year.