April 22, 2021

Babcock Ranch joins competition for Edison innovation award

By: Vicki Parsons - IT


Apr 16, 2021

The community of Babcock Ranch is a finalist in the 2021 Edison Awards.

The new solar power-centered master community that straddles Lee and Charlotte County joins more than 130 companies — big and small — that were nominated for the Edison Best Products Awards.

Award winners in 14 categories will be announced Thursday. The Babcock community will host a day-long series of events on site that day for conference attendees.

The Edison awards began in 1987, recognizing excellence in new products, services, marketing, design, and leadership. Competitors are worldwide from startups to Fortune 500.

Babcock Ranch is a finalist as a game-changer in the category of sustainability. The 18,000-acre community was designed with solar power as a center piece along with low-energy design and preservation of native landscapes.

Topics covered on April 22 at Babcock include panel discussions on Black innovators, U.S. Sugar, the future of power and the future of active aging. Kitson and U.S. Sugar executives will participate. PBS journalist Miles O’Brien will moderate discussions.

Other products showcased in the finalists listing include a unusual range from household tools such as a bionic mop to new COVID-19 testing tools to a new zero calorie sugar, tip proof cookware, plants that detect heavy metals in water, forest fire prevention technology and new ocean mapping. Companies include many small startups but also big ones such as Google Maps and Avon.

Babcock Ranch is the local competitor. Unlike other large subdivisions in Florida, selected for their proximity to the coast, Babcock was selected almost 20 years ago as far from endangered coastal zones in former ranch and swamp lands. Developer Syd Kitson negotiated with the state to buy 92,000 acres but to build all homes and infrastructure on only 18,000 acres. The rest of the land was returned to the state for preservation. This radical move prevented the piecemeal development of the family-owned property that was poised to change hands.

Kitson persuaded Florida Power & Light to jump start its solar power plan by giving them the land at Babcock for the first 330,000 panels. By the time the Great Recession ended, solar power was getting cheaper and the panels were in place for the first homes in 2018. The utility has doubled its panels north of Babcock Ranch and uses the site to develop its knowledge of large-scale battery operation.

Babcock has a population of more than 2,300 now, but was designed for up to 50,000. Its design focuses on sustainability by gradually bringing in the basic shopping, entertainment and medical services that residents need. It also includes a charter school system. Babcock has promised rental apartments and assisted living facilities to encourage a diverse community. It already allows home owners to build rental units onto single-family buildings in some of the subdivisions.