First Ever Solar City Planned for Sunshine State

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Includes: FPL-OLD, KWT, TAN
by: Greentech Media
By Jeff St. John
An artist's rendering of Babcock Ranch, which will be located near Fort Myers, Fla. - Kitson & Partners

A Florida developer wants to build a $2 billion planned community in southwest Florida. If the plans go through, the community would be the first to be entirely powered by the sun.

The Babcock Ranch development, proposed by developer Kitson & Partners, would be integrated with a 75-megawatt, $350 million photovoltaic solar power plant to be built by utility Florida Power & Light.

That's more power than the proposed 17,000-acre, 45,000-resident city is expected to consume, making it entirely solar powered, at least while the sun is shining.

It would place Babcock Ranch in the running with the Masdar City project to become the first "zero-emissions" city. The $22 billion project from Abu Dhabi's Masdar initiative hopes to eventually host 240 megawatts of solar power (Abu Dhabi Picks Suntech, First Solar for 10MW Solar Farm in Masdar City).

Like Masdar City, Babcock Ranch also seeks to integrate a host of green characteristics. The development near Fort Myers would sport 6 million square feet of energy efficient buildings and an integrated "smart grid" to let homes and businesses monitor and control their energy consumption.

And both developments hope to draw a host of green technology startups and research projects to their energy efficient, solar-powered office parks. Babcock Ranch is expected to create about 20,000 jobs when built, in what Syd Kitson, chairman and CEO of Kitson & Partners and former NFL lineman, called a "home base for America's future."

Whether or not Babcock Ranch comes to fruition remains an open question, however, given the poor state of the Florida real estate market. Two other large-scale planned communities have failed to be built in Florida in recent years, the New York Times and Time magazine noted.

Kitson & Partners hopes to see construction in mid-2010. The developer already owns the land and has secured state approval of the project.

Florida Power & Light, however, plans to break ground later this year on the 75-megawatt solar plant whether or not Babcock Ranch becomes a reality.

Florida Power & Light plans to break ground on the 75-megawartt solar plant later this year. The utility is already planning a 75-megawatt plant called the Martin Next Generation Solar Energy Center, though that project would involve a solar thermal power plant combined with a natural gas-fired power plant.

It also plans to add 35 megawatts of solar photovoltaic power in two projects, one at NASA's Kennedy Space Center and the other in Desoto County.

The utility's parent company, FPL Group (NYSE: FPL), has a large portfolio of wind and solar power projects, including the 310-megawatt solar-thermal Solar Electric Generating System in California's Mojave Desert.

But the ongoing recession has led FPL to scale back on some of its renewable energy plans (see FPL Cuts Wind Power Plans).