MIAMI (CBSMiami) – About half an hour northeast of Ft. Myers lies Babcock Ranch, America’s first solar-powered town that families are flocking to.
The developers of the new community have planned for nearly 20-thousand homes in a town that they hope will serve as a model for sustainability.
In Syd Kitson’s city of the future, people leave their car in the garage and get around using self-driving shuttle buses. The autonomous vehicle, hailed with an app, has zero emissions. It’s powered by electricity generated from the sun. Just like the street lamps and buildings in the town.
Kitson, a developer, wouldn’t want it any other way. Babcock Ranch has been his passion project since 2005.
“We have the advantage of a green field, a blank sheet of paper. When you have a blank sheet of paper like this, you really can do it right from the very beginning,” he said.
The town doesn’t run on solar power all the time. At night, it has to draw from the traditional electrical grid. Kitson said the technology for storing all the surplus energy that the solar cells generate during the day is just too costly.
Another problem – too many overcast days.
“Clearly if you have a number of cloudy days in a row, it will impact the efficiency and the available electricity that comes from the electric field,” he said.
Richard and Robin Kinley were the first couple to move in. The lake next to their house has been named after them – Lake Kinley.
“I thought, the air is nice and clean here, and I think these types of communities are the future,” said Robin Kinley.
“I felt very much like when I bought a Tesla back in 2013,” said Richard Kinley. “I said, this definitely is going to make it. I felt the same way about Babcock Ranch.”
About 80 percent of the land that Kitson originally bought won’t be developed. He sold about 73 thousand acres to the state which turned it into a wildlife preserve.
A small three-bedroom in Babcock Ranch goes for about $185 thousand. A four-bedroom, two-story house by the lake is more pricey – at least $750 thousand.