May 04, 2018

Babcock Ranch unveils fitness center that generates power

By: Vicki Parsons - IT


STAFF WRITER-Charlotte Sun


As two CEOs exercised on bikes Tuesday at the emerging town of Babcock Ranch in Charlotte County, they did more than burn calories.

On one of the bikes was Syd Kitson, chairman & CEO of Kitson & Partners, which is developing the new Babcock Ranch community off of State Road 31.

Larry Antonucci, CEO of Lee Health, a nonprofit healthcare organization in nearby Lee County, was on the other bike.

The CEOs peddled for just a couple of minutes — amid the fanfare of dozens of spectators from Lee Health, Babcock Ranch, children from the Babcock Neighborhood School and others.

They stopped to the sound of applause that filled the new gym when enough

energy was produced from their quick workouts to light up a light bulb.

It wasn’t just for fun, though.

Together, the CEOs opened up the new Lee Health Healthy Life Center to the public.

The center is located in the middle of Babcock Ranch, which features the school, some shops, restaurants, a self-driving shuttle, electric boats, hiking trails and more.

“The health and wellness center was always a major part of our plans,” Kitson told theSun after his brief workout.

Billed as “the first solar powered town in America,” Babcock Ranch also partnered with Florida Power & Light for the installation of 343,000 solar panels on a 440-acre portion of the property, which has a solar capacity of 74.5 megawatts.

And recently, FPL and Babcock Ranch unveiled the “largest solar-plusstorage system operating in the U.S.” which is located adjacent to the town’s sprawling solar field.

Ten large steel battery storage units at the FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center can store one megawatt of power each. FPL has “solar trees” and some solar panels on Babcock Ranch buildings as well.

It’s not immediately known how much energy will be produced from 16 pieces of TechnoGymbrand exercise equipment at the new, two-story fitness center, which also includes an indoor basketball court and an outdoor saltwater pool, according to information from Babcock Ranch.

“We want to be a living lab,” Kitson said about the town.

A half-mile ride on one of the exercise bikes produces about three watts of power — so a five-mile ride could power a 30-watt light bulb, said Babcock Ranch spokesperson Lisa Hall.

She said the amount of energy produced from the equipment is “something we’ll learn as we go, as this is first of its kind in the U.S.”

And it will also depend on “how busy they keep the equipment with people working out.”

“This is a town,” said Kitson, stressing that Babcock Ranch is not a gated community. “Anyone can come here.”

That means whether people live in Babcock Ranch or not, he said.

The public can use the hiking trails, join the

fitness center or even fish in the lakes, said Kitson.

“The Lee Health and Babcock Ranch relationship ensures that residents of Babcock and surrounding areas can enjoy a vast array of health and wellness services while staying close to home,” states information from Lee Health. So far, about 125 homes had been sold in the community with more than a dozen people living there so far and rising, according to information from Babcock Ranch.

By year’s end, about 250 homes are expected to be sold. And by the end of next year, Kitson said he expects at least 750 to 1,000 homes to have been sold at Babcock Ranch, which is slated to ultimately have 19,500 homes and 6 million square feet of commercial space.

A golf course is slated to come soon. So are rentals, condos and apartments. New home prices currently range from about $190,000 to $1 million.