‘The Lights Stayed On’ During Hurricane Ian in Florida’s Only Solar-Powered Town

by on October 3, 2022 · 1 comment

in Environment

Streets Designed for Flooding; Houses Built for Storms

By Rachel Ramirez/ CNN/ Oct. 2, 2022

Only 12 miles northeast of Fort Myers, yet seemingly light years away, Babcock Ranch calls itself “America’s first solar-powered town.” Its nearby solar array — made up of 700,000 individual panels — generates more electricity than the 2,000-home neighborhood uses, in a state where most electricity is generated by burning natural gas, a planet-warming fossil fuel.

The streets in this meticulously planned neighborhood were designed to flood so houses don’t. Native landscaping along roads helps control storm water. Power and internet lines are buried to avoid wind damage. This is all in addition to being built to Florida’s robust building codes.

Some residents, like Anthony Grande, installed more solar panels on their roofs and added battery systems as an extra layer of protection from power outages. Many drive electric vehicles, taking full advantage of solar energy in the Sunshine State.

Climate resiliency was built into the fabric of the town with stronger storms in mind.

So when Hurricane Ian came barreling toward southwest Florida this week, it was a true test for the community. The storm obliterated the nearby Fort Myers and Naples areas with record-breaking surge and winds over 100 mph. It knocked out power to more than 2.6 million customers in the state, including 90% of Charlotte County.

But the lights stayed on in Babcock Ranch.

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kh October 3, 2022 at 12:18 pm

Aside from the immediate coastline that is all over the news, the majority of the homes lost were actually due to flooding from the ridiculous amount of rainfall and rivers running way above their banks. Babcock Ranch was on the dry side of the storm and is 20 miles from the nearest river.

For comparison, I have family in a town about the same distance from the coastline and they were under the wettest part of the storm’s eyewall for 4-5 hours, and received higher winds but also the flood water from the storm including via the river as it tracked north of them. They are without power for likely another week or so, and the town is a mess with trees debris, yard junk, and flimsy patios and trim material from old homes and mobile homes strewn all over. Certainly a mess to clean up, but not any sort of destruction like what’s on the coastline. Their roads and homes were not under water either except by the river.

I’m impressed if the large solar arrays at Babcock Ranch were not damaged by the wind, and it’s a testament to localizing our power grid for redundancy. If I lived anywhere in Florida I’d sure want a solar+battery system. But the main difference maker I see, is Babcock Ranch’s homes are new and built to the most current building codes, (and twice the price.) They also have barely any trees, and they certainly don’t have any trailer parks.


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