Babcock Ranch in Florida is attempting to build a community that is completely off-the-grid. And it’s more than a dream, it’s a reality, and it was begun by a former NFL lineman, Syd Kitson.
Every once in a while you will see me STRONGLY recommend that you click through and read the full article I am excerpting from. This is one of those times.
The story of Babcock Ranch warrants your attention if, like me, you hope to tilt the balance of power towards individuals and free associations.
Regardless of the motivations behind the creation of Babcock Ranch, what is going on there is a case study in self-sufficiency and self-sustainability at the individual and free association level (as opposed to the global level, which, if you haven’t guessed by now, iState.tv doesn’t favor).
|Can you build an entire town off-the-grid? Babcock Ranch wants to find out|
About a decade ago, NFL lineman-turned-real estate developer Syd Kitson began to have a vision. Fiber-optic Internet fed into every home. Self-driving cars ferried kids back-and-forth from school. A great blue sea of solar panels stretched to a horizon line of pines, soaked up rays in the Sunshine State.
Kitson wanted to turn the abandoned land he saw around him in Southwest Florida into a sort of future town, a place running entirely on the latest and greatest in energy-efficient technology. So in 2006, Kitson purchased 91,000 acres of mostly undeveloped agricultural land just 15 miles northeast of Fort Myers. He named the development Babcock Ranch, honoring the family who sold it to him……
Developed by French transportation company Transdev, the PACE system (short for, personalized, autonomous, connected, electric) starts the bus off at a cautious crawl and never exceeds 10 mph as it ferries us around downtown. A Transdev operator joins us on the ride, hovering over a control panel and monitoring the navigation system for any sign that it’s lost GPS signal.
“We’re designing [the town] around stuff like this,” Kitson said. “We don’t want cars around, or parking around.”
….As the minibus drove through the streets that Friday, Kitson pointed out green metal sculptures branching upward, topped with solar panels tilted toward the Sun. These solar trees boast a peak capacity to power a few homes but hardly an entire town. “We want to get off the grid,” he said. And for that he needed a fully equipped solar farm.
But desiring self-sufficiency and building the infrastructure needed to make it happen are two very different things, especially in Florida where laws let utility companies keep homeowners tethered to the grid.
……At the Babcock Neighborhood School, students are taught a “green-STEAM” curriculum with an emphasis on sustainability and environmental responsibility. For instance: a group of the school’s sixth graders proudly displayed their first place prize from a recent local cook-off, where they made chicken teriyaki in a DIY Fresnel solar cooker.
But Kitson doesn’t want to settle on sustainable. He wants to build a town that buzzes with all the latest technologies, which means adding them to his plan before they’ve been technically proven.
“Use us as a living laboratory for these great technologies,” he said, motioning towards the Trandev operator, whose eyes were locked on the navigation screen, ready to pounce on the manual controls the moment a problem reared its head amidst the head honcho.
…….“This is a new town,” Kitson said. “Not a gated community like you get all over Florida… There are 1,000 people moving into Florida each day and in my view we need to start doing development right with sustainable and smart growth. We want to become that example for how to think about development in the future.”