After playing professional football for five years, Syd Kitson, now real estate developer, dreamed of developing the first solar-powered town in the United States. After nearly a decade, his dreams are coming true. Babcock Ranch, soon to be the first Eco-friendly city, is located on 91,000 acres in Punta Gorda Florida and is built to accommodate 21,000 homes.
Built from the ground up, Babcock Ranch, is built to sustain nearly 50,000 residents. This entire Eco-friendly town, including condominiums and larger homes, will not only use the latest in green technologies but will also be certified as sustainable by the Florida Green Building Coalition.
"We are building a new town together. It is just remarkable," Kitson announced to a crowd of several hundred visitors during an Earth Day event last week. "It is our mission to prove that preservation and responsible growth can work together."
There are currently plans for a solar farm, a public school, shops, a community newspaper, restaurants, hiking trails, lakes for kayaking and even an app on a residents smart phone that will hail a "driver-less" car to shuttle them from one place to the next!
There have been some obstacles for Kitson along the way, putting a kink in this plans, but he has overcome them all and his dream for a completely Eco-friendly town is finally within his grasp.
Many local residents, including the Sierra Club, opposed this entire idea from the beginning. Even threatened to file lawsuits as they believed the town would destroy the Eco-system. This obstacle was overcome by Kitson selling 73,000 acres back to the state for a wildlife preserve which has been restored and some of the farmland has been converted into a panther habitat. Another hurdle that has been jumped was the global financial crisis in 2007 that caused the real estate market to tank, just after Kitson purchased the land.
Then there were the doubts that the solar energy would be affordable.
Eric Silagy the president and CEO of Florida Power and Light (FPL) met with Kitson to explain why his vision of a solar powered city was just too costly.
"Syd was dutifully paying attention and he said 'Ok. We'll just give you the land,'" Silagy recalled.
"It frankly caught me by surprise. I was like, 'Pardon me?'"
It was then that Kitson donated 443 acres to FPL for the solar farm. The 75-megawatt solar farm will produce enough energy to power the 21,000 homes that will be built in the city. This energy will not directly power up Babcock Ranch, but will be sent straight to FPL's electrical grid.
"He pushed us to be better, to think creatively, to do things differently," said Silagy.
None of the homes have been constructed yet, but according to Syd, the first phase of 1,100 homes is to be complete and the first residents will be ready to move in by 2017.