What would that look like?
One of the cities is just 35 minutes south from me is Babcock Ranch (Florida). It’s the first solar powered town in America. This city is quietly is a gem in Florida, consisting of the most solar panels I’ve ever seen implemented into a city. Fiber internet in every home. Autonomous vehicles. Electric vehicle charging stations. Solar power. All can be found there.
It’s the first time I ever saw ‘Solar Trees’ implemented into a city to help make the city more efficient in energy costs. You’ll commonly find these in the ‘Founder’s Square’ district of Babcock Ranch. People at the park can even connect their handheld devices to these ‘solar trees’ and charge them if they wished.
Solar fields also were implemented throughough Babcock Ranch, helping power the community. 330,000 solar panels will power the 19,500 homes and 6 million square feet of commercial space when Babcock Ranch is built out. The solar field is located north of the town of Babcock Ranch.
It provides 74.5 megawatts of solar capacity and is located on a total of 440 acres. With 343,000 solar panels, the FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center provides power to the entire town of Babcock and surrounding areas.
During the day — since electric power always flows from the nearest source of generation- the electricity generated at the Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center flows to the FPL substation located next to our water and wastewater utility, and then to the town. Any extra energy generated by the solar plant continues to flow to the grid to serve other FPL customers. When the sun goes down, the battery storage kicks in to supply uninterrupted power.
Homeowners seeking to further reduce their monthly utility bills and environmental footprint can add their own rooftop solar, saving even more in energy costs.
The best part? Since Florida is prone to hurricane’s, rest assured this city will be able to do just fine on it’s own in the near future. During Hurricane Irma, not one panel was damaged or blown away.
In regards to transportation? The solar power also networks their self-driving shuttle buses. Babcock Ranch is the first city in the world to have autonomous school buses.
There was one bit of a small controversy though. With innovation, there always comes a snag along the way that gets the crowd wound up. In Babcock Ranch’s case, it was in regards to the autonomous school buses.
For a duration of 6 weeks, Transdev (the innovative company behind the autonomous vehicles) tested a system that would transport kids on autonomous school buses that can by tracked by smartphone. The pilot program had the shuttle pick up a maximum of five kids at a designated area and drop them off at school, all while traveling at around eight miles per hour (with a safety supervisor on board). It was done in a very controlled environment at just 8 miles an hour with sensors that detect it’s surroundings.
The feds quickly intervened deeming it “safe and irresponsible.” Parents also had obvious concerns. It’s not that they were entirely in disagreement, but it’s so fresh and innovative, stating that safety is the number one concern and that it’s simply “not ready yet for children and schools.”
The agreement was to use the autonomous vehicles for public transportation, but there was a miscommunication or misunderstanding in the agreement, causing the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to send a cease and desist letter, shutting down the program.
However, Transdev still does operate in Babcock, primarily for the public transportation for the town itself. The autonomous vehicle technology has been spreading in other parts of the world.
Being a self-sustainable green city is huge in my opinion and I hope to see solar innovation spread further, hopefully becoming cheaper and even more improved as it progresses throughout the world.
Solar powered city doesn’t just save energy costs in Babcock Ranch, but it provides a sustainable future for years to come in regards to transport services as well:
- AV shuttles can move people around campuses, within communities and airports, and through convention and shopping centers that can transport on their own ‘backroads’, causing less clutter on highways and local roads where traffic is ungodly (like Los Angeles, CA or Orlando, FL for instance)
- Great for the elderly, even better for those who aren’t capable of driving.
- Save gas for not having to always take your own vehicle everywhere.
- Best of all, it uses no gas, great for the environment.