This Florida City Is 100% Solar-Powered

About 343,000 sun-hungry panels fuel Babcock Ranch, where residents are just starting to move in.

In one of the largest solar arrays in Florida, about 343,000 panels stretch across 440 acres, an area the size of 200 football fields.

Photographer: Rose Marie Cromwell for Bloomberg Businessweek

Babcock Ranch offers a town-size rejoinder to those who say solar power can’t scale. In the suburbs of Fort Myers in South Florida, Babcock is meant to become America’s first city fueled entirely by the sun, thanks to its 75-megawatt array of solar panels. Only two families have moved in so far, but students from nearby towns have already filled the first of several planned schools, and the footprint includes plans for 19,500 homes and about 50,000 residents. “Along with innovation and change, there’s a throwback to an earlier time,” says Donna Aveck, who arrived in January with her husband, Jim. “We’re thrilled to be pioneers.”

Developer Kitson & Partners started building the town about a decade ago after buying land from the Babcock Ranch Preserve, which retains about 73,000 acres of pinelands and prairie nearby. So far, only about 100 homes are contracted for construction—but self-driving shuttles have already begun to ferry people around. —Photographs by Rose Marie Cromwell

Babcock Ranch.
Photographer: Rose Marie Cromwell for Bloomberg Businessweek
Wetlands. Babcock Ranch Eco-Tours operates bus-driven tours on the northern tip of the preserve, close to where the Babcock family hunting lodge is located.
Photographer: Rose Marie Cromwell for Bloomberg Businessweek
A solar tree in Founders Square.
Photographer: Rose Marie Cromwell for Bloomberg Businessweek
Photographer: Rose Marie Cromwell for Bloomberg Businessweek
An electric self-driving shuttle.
Photographer: Rose Marie Cromwell for Bloomberg Businessweek
Space between model homes at Babcock.
Photographer: Rose Marie Cromwell for Bloomberg Businessweek
Connor and Payton, the children of Bethany and Jerry Hunt, at the site of their new home. They had just finished soccer practice at the field across the street. 
Photographer: Rose Marie Cromwell for Bloomberg Businessweek
Photographer: Rose Marie Cromwell for Bloomberg Businessweek
Kids at Babcock Neighborhood School prepare flowers to plant in memory of the Parkland, Fla., shooting victims.
Photographer: Rose Marie Cromwell for Bloomberg Businessweek
Donna and Jim Aleck, one of the first couples to move to Babcock Ranch.
Photographer: Rose Marie Cromwell for Bloomberg Businessweek
Diana and Bill Gillet hired movers to help them move into their new home.
Photographer: Rose Marie Cromwell for Bloomberg Businessweek
James Howard, known as Jimbo, at the adjacent Crescent B Ranch, still a working cattle ranch.
Photographer: Rose Marie Cromwell for Bloomberg Businessweek
A banner advertising the town’s lifestyle and activities lies on the ground.
Photographer: Rose Marie Cromwell for Bloomberg Businessweek
Solar panels at Babcock Ranch.
Photographer: Rose Marie Cromwell for Bloomberg Businessweek