Jasmin Day is pregnant and when her girl or boy is born later this year—she’s keeping the gender a surprise—her baby will become the first child ever born in Babcock Ranch, Fla.
“Almost all the boxes are undone,” she says while stepping over the just delivered new bed. She, husband Josh, and little kids, Judson and Elliot, just moved into their new house and this brand new community – dubbed the city of the future.
The young couple from Memphis, Tenn. could not be happier.
“To be able to be a part of a community of everyone that cares,” Josh Day said, “and wants that for them, not only for themselves but also for their children and their grandchildren, to have it be a more clean Earth whenever our children are older.”
His wife added: "I think we’re pretty all in! We live here. We work here."
Babcock Ranch, near Fort Myers on state’s west coast, was developed from the beginning with a massive solar power farm generating 100 percent of the electric needs. About 350,000 photovoltaic solar panels stretch across a swath of land the size of 200 football fields.
When developer Syd Kitson, a former NFL lineman with the Dallas Cowboys and Green Bay Packers, bought the 17,000-acre property, it was all old mining and farmland.
It’s now the country’s first, fully solar city, with a very low carbon footprint, a soon-to-open school, electric shuttles that will eventually be driverless, a cute town square with shops and an emphasis on the environment and preservation.
Where most developers would build and sell as many homes as possible, for greater profit, Kitson’s vision from the beginning was preserving most of the open space, now encompassing several lakes and 50 miles of bike trails.
The homes run from $190,000 to about $499,000. Residents can work in the town, but are not required to do so.
The fully completed footprint will eventually be 19,500 homes.
"We think about the way we develop differently…. It’s the most environmentally responsible, the most sustainable new town that’s ever been developed,” Kitson said. “And, it’s the first solar-powered town in America. And we’re very proud of that."
In January, the first two people moved in. Now, there are 150 homes under contract with an expectation that will there will be 250 families moved in by December. Eight developers are now building homes. The vision is a unique creation of a 45,000-person small city.
But first came the enormous solar farm. Kitson gave the land to Florida Power & Light for free, which then spent more than $100,000,000 installing all the panels, wires and storage batteries. That solar-generated power now is shared throughout FPL’s grid, as Babcock Ranch’s demand, at this point, remains very small.
John Woolschlager, an urban planning professor at nearby Florida Gulf Coast University, said all cities can ultimately follow Babcock Ranch’s model, but it will take years. Babcock Ranch’s huge advantage was that it’s being built from scratch with the self-sustainability and pro-environment philosophy on the ground first.
“I think, also, if you look to the distant future, it’s going to be a necessity,” Woolschlager said. “If we want to have a good life in the future, we have to think more sustainability, because if we don’t, we’re going to run out of energy, run out of water and run out of resources."
For Josh Day, he’s landed a physical therapy job in the town square’s Life Wellness Center. So, if he doesn’t bike to work and home, he can just ride a solar powered, electric shuttle, in a town which – for now – has no traffic nor rush hours.