Ian Barely Scratches New SW Fla. Community

Babcock Ranch’s first residents arrived in 2018, and thanks to solar panels, underground cables and more, no one lost electricity, water or the internet.

BABCOCK RANCH, Fla. – When Hurricane Ian struck as a Category 4 storm, Babcock Ranch residents opted to shelter in place in homes built to withstand natural disasters. During and after the storm, no one lost electricity, water or internet.

The community lies north of Fort Myers and 30 miles inland to avoid coastal storm surges. It’s first residents moved there in 2018. Home prices start at around $250,000.

Power lines are all underground and large retaining ponds surround the development to protect houses from flooding, and the streets are designed to absorb floodwaters.

Even though the community faced 100-mph winds, residents did not lose power. The only notably damage after the hurricane’s battering was a missing traffic light at the development’s main entrance, flattened palm trees and broken street signs.

Babcock Ranch used its community center to shelter people from other storm-affected communities.

Jennifer Languell, a sustainability engineer who helped design the community, says Hurricane Ian provided “proof of concept” for the community’s design. Babcock Ranch has allocated 870 acres for 650,000 photovoltaic panels operated by Florida Power & Light. The solar array can supply 30,000 homes, although the development currently has only about 5,000 residents. The surplus electricity goes back into the grid and is used to power surrounding communities.

Source: NPR (10/06/22) Neuman, Scott

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