April 13, 2018

Spring at Babcock Ranch

By: Vicki Parsons - IT

Casey Logan, CLOGAN@NEWS-PRESS.COMPublished 8:45 a.m. ET April 2, 2018

March 10 was a big day, as the town offered a “hometown grand opening” that the developer estimates attracted 8,000 people.

Folks piled onto a bus in the overcast afternoon, with monitors playing a Florida Power & Light video on a loop touting the Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center passengers would soon see.

Charlie Gauger, who has worked for FPL parent company NextEra Energy Resources for 31 years and led the Babcock solar installation, answered questions about the solar array and its battery storage system.

“They’re more like a battery that’s in your cell phone, and each one has an inverter,” he said. “It helps to regulate the power consumption on the grid,” adding it is capable of powering 15,000 homes.

Every Babcock Ranch house, he said, is prewired for solar and with an electric vehicle charging station, and there’s a centralized inverter at the solar energy center.

After a ride that took people north on State Road 31, then a little east, the bus arrived in front of a three-story viewing platform that features ramps and a metal roof.

Atop the platform, an ocean of solar panels fans out almost as far as the eye can see — save for a tree line off in the distance.

Behind the scenes is the largest combined solar-plus-storage facility in operation in the country, a 10-megawatt/40 megawatt-hour battery storage system connected to the 74.5-megawatt solar energy center.

It enables the facility to store energy that can provide power to the grid when it is needed — even with the sun isn’t shining. That helps to make the delivery of solar energy more predictable and reliable.

“We’re working toward having the entire town powered by solar energy 100 percent of the time,” Kitson said.