Solar Community Rides Thru Ian with No Blackouts

October 2, 2022

All solar Community, just 12 miles from landfall at Fort Myers, rides thru the teeth of Hurricane Ian and comes thru safely, with no blackouts.


Anthony Grande moved away from Fort Myers three years ago in large part because of the hurricane risk. He has lived in southwest Florida for nearly 19 years, had experienced Hurricanes Charley in 2004 and Irma in 2017and saw what stronger storms could do to the coast. 

Grande told CNN he wanted to find a new home where developers prioritized climate resiliency in a state that is increasingly vulnerable to record-breaking storm surge, catastrophic wind and historic rainfall.

What he found was Babcock Ranch — only 12 miles northeast of Fort Myers, yet seemingly light years away.

Babcock Ranch calls itself “America’s first solar-powered town.” Its nearby solar array — made up of 700,000 individual panels — generates more electricity than the 2,000-home neighborhood uses, in a state where most electricity is generated by burning natural gas, a planet-warming fossil fuel

The streets in this meticulously planned neighborhood were designed to flood so houses don’t. Native landscaping along roads helps control storm water. Power and internet lines are buried to avoid wind damage. This is all in addition to being built to Florida’s robust building codes.

Some residents, like Grande, installed more solar panels on their roofs and added battery systems as an extra layer of protection from power outages. Many drive electric vehicles, taking full advantage of solar energy in the Sunshine State. 

Climate resiliency was built into the fabric of the town with stronger storms in mind. 

So when Hurricane Ian came barreling toward southwest Florida this week, it was a true test for the community. The storm obliterated the nearby Fort Myers and Naples areas with record-breaking surge and winds over 100 mph. It knocked out power to more than 2.6 million customers in the state, including 90% of Charlotte County. 

But the lights stayed on in Babcock Ranch.

“It certainly exceeded our expectations of a major hurricane,” Grande, 58, told CNN.

“The storm uprooted trees and tore shingles from roofs, but other than that Grande said there is no major damage. Its residents say Babcock Ranch is proof that an eco-conscious and solar-powered town can withstand the wrath of a near-Category 5 storm.

“We have proof of the case now because [the hurricane] came right over us,” Nancy Chorpenning, a 68-year-old Babcock Ranch resident, told CNN. “We have water, electricity, internet — and we may be the only people in Southwest Florida who are that fortunate.”

Grande said Hurricane Ian came through southwest Florida “like a freight train.” But he wasn’t afraid that he would lose everything in a storm, like he was when he lived in Fort Myers. 

“We’re very, very blessed and fortunate to not be experiencing what they’re experiencing now in Sanibel Island and Fort Myers Beach,” Grande said. “In the times that we’re living in right now with climate change, the beach is not the place to live or have a business.”

yd Kitson, a former professional football player for the Green Bay Packers and Dallas Cowboys, is the mastermind behind Babcock Ranch. Kitson envisioned it to be an eco-conscious and innovative neighborhood that is safe and resilient from storms like Ian. 

The ranch broke ground in 2015 with the construction of the solar array — which was built and is run by Florida Power and Light — and its first residents moved into the town in 2018. Since then, the array has doubled in size and thousands of people have made Babcock their home.

“It’s a great case study to show that it can be done right, if you build in the right place and do it the right way,” said Lisa Hall, a spokesperson for Kitson, who also lives in Babcock Ranch. 

“Throughout all this, there’s just so many people saying, ‘it worked, that this was the vision, this is the reason we moved here,’” Hall told CNN.

Perhaps the highest endorsement for the city is that it is now a refuge for some of Ian’s hardest-hit victims. The state opened Babcock Neighborhood School as an official shelter, even though it didn’t have the mandated generator. The solar array kept the lights on.


7 Responses to “Solar Community Rides Thru Ian with No Blackouts”

  1. This is a solar powered town? Where does it get its electricity at night?

    Electric power always flows from the nearest generation, so during the day the town will use energy from the FPL Babcock Ranch Solar Energy Center. When the sun goes down and the solar plant is not generating energy, Babcock Ranch will pull electricity off the grid from the closest FPL natural-gas power plant.

    • redskylite Says:

      Babcock Ranch also has storage via a battery. . . . . . not solely dependent on the grid.

      “Solar-plus-storage system

      Babcock Ranch is also home to an innovative battery storage system. This solar-powered battery brings the benefits of solar to times when the sun’s not shining, like at night or on a cloudy day. ”

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      We’ve got two problems here: The sun doesn’t shine at night and it’s such a waste to have all that electricity that solar makes during the day!

      Whatever can anybody do in such a situation? All is lost!

  2. ubrew12 Says:

    I read the Washington Post. After Ian there was an article about how global warming was changing hurricanes, making the large ones even larger. Down in the comments section, the ‘most liked’ comment was about how fragile solar panels are against a hurricane, including this quote “solar panels… often touted as an environmentally friendly solution to greenhouse gas emissions, were the structures most highly impacted by the hurricane. Natural gas pipelines easily withstood the winds… Thankfully solar energy is not a big part of the Floridian energy mix.” This comment came so soon after Ian hit that there was no way the person making it had any way of knowing if solar panels were impacted or not, and if so, how much. It was just straight out made-up propaganda. And I’m sure a fair number of those ‘liking’ it were also propaganda-specialists.

    It’s nice to read an article like this one that takes the time to actually check on the situation, post-Ian, before rushing a judgement on how it did.

    • redskylite Says:

      Agree – there’s always anti progress propaganda/untruths on social media and press comments, trouble is people don’t have time or inclination to check and begin to believe the negative hype. It is really a problem created with modern communications.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      When gale force+ winds are forecast, they move the panels to a low-profile position.

      Let’s talk about Port Fourchon being taken out by Katrina, Rita and Ida, and how the oil rigs in the Gulf of Mexico are shut down and evacuated (with wind and waves already dangerous). Let’s talk about the time to recover after explosions and LNG facilities and refineries.

      Even with damage to a lot of panels in a solar array, the rest will still work and it’s a matter of replacing the broken panels via a flatbed or two’s worth of new panels. I haven’t heard of leaking panels (or wind turbines) getting into the water table, or spilling into creeks and lakes.

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