Can an entire town run on solar?

>> Sreenivasan: WHEN WE THINK OF THE SOURCE OF CARBON DIOXIDE EMISSIONS THAT CONTRIBUTE TO CLIMATE CHANGE, TRANSPORTATION AND INDUSTRY ARE LIKELY THE FIRST THINGS THAT COME TO MIND. IN REALITY, 40% OF THOSE EMISSIONS IN THE U.S. STEM FROM THE ENERGY USED TO HEAT, COOL, LIGHT, AND POWER OUR BUILDINGS. BUT A NEW RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENT IN FLORIDA IS TRYING TO SHOW THERE'S A DIFFERENT WAY. THIS STORY IS PART OF OUR ONGOING SERIES "PERIL AND PROMISE– THE CHALLENGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE." IT TOOK THE LOCAL UTILITY COMPANY MORE THAN A YEAR TO BUILD THIS 440 ACRE SOLAR ARRAY IN SOUTHWEST FLORIDA. >> IT'S ONE OF THE LARGEST IF NOT THE LARGEST IN THE STATE. BUT MORE IMPORTANTLY IT POWERS, IT POWERS THE TOWN OF BABCOCK RANCH. >> Sreenivasan: SYD KITSON ONCE PLAYED FOOTBALL FOR THE GREEN BAY PACKERS AND DALLAS COWBOYS. NOW A DEVELOPER, KITSON IS THE MASTERMIND BEHIND BABCOCK RANCH, AN 18-ACRE PLANNED COMMUNITY. AT ITS PEAK, KITSON SAYS THE DEVELOPMENT WILL HAVE CLOSE TO 20,000 HOMES, ALL POWERED BY THE SUN. >> THE IDEA FOR US FROM THE BEGINNING WAS TO CREATE THE MOST ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE, THE MOST SUSTAINABLE NEW TOWN THAT HAD EVER BEEN DEVELOPED.

>> Sreenivasan: IN 2006, KITSON'S REAL ESTATE COMPANY BOUGHT 91,000 ACRES OF LAND, THEN SOLD 80% OF IT TO THE STATE OF FLORIDA TO BE PRESERVED FOREVER. THE COMPANY IS USING THE REMAINING PROPERTY, MOSTLY FORMER FARM AND ROCK MINING LAND TO CREATE BABCOCK RANCH. THAT INCLUDES MORE THAN 8,000 ACRES FOR GREEN SPACE. THE FIRST RESIDENTS MOVED IN IN JANUARY. THE HOPE IS THAT BY 2040, BABCOCK RANCH WILL BE HOME TO 50,000 PEOPLE. AND DEMONSTRATE THAT GOING GREEN IS GOOD BUSINESS. >> IT JUST SEEMED LIKE A GREAT OPPORTUNITY TO PROVE THAT YOU CAN DO IT THE RIGHT WAY. THAT YOU CAN PRESERVE LAND, THAT PRESERVATION AND DEVELOPMENT CAN WORK HAND IN HAND. >> Sreenivasan: BUT THE AMBITION GOES BEYOND SOLAR POWER AND PRESERVATION. THE GOAL IS FOR BABCOCK RANCH TO BE A MODEL OF SUSTAINABILITY. THE DEVELOPMENT REQUIRES ALL THE HOMES AND COMMERCIAL BUILDINGS TO BE CERTIFIED GREEN BY THE FLORIDA GREEN BUILDING COALITION.

>> BUILDERS WERE LIKE, "REALLY? YOU WANT ME TO DO WHAT? THAT'S GOING TO BLOW MY BUDGET." >> Sreenivasan: JENNIFER LANGUELL IS A SUSTAINABLE DESIGN CONSULTANT HIRED BY KITSON'S FIRM. SHE WORKS WITH THE BUILDERS AT BABCOCK RANCH, STEERING THEM TOWARDS ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY BUILDING TECHNIQUES AND MATERIALS. >> SO WHY I WANTED TO GET YOU GUYS OUT HERE TO THIS HOUSE IN PARTICULAR, WAS BECAUSE IT'S KIND OF THIS HOUSE IN HIS UNDERPANTS STAGE AND SO WE CAN KIND OF SEE WHAT'S BEHIND THOSE WALLS. >> Sreenivasan: SHE POINTS TO INSULATION IN THE ROOF, FOAM IN THE CONCRETE WALLS, AND EVEN THE THICKNESS OF WINDOWS. ALL OF THESE COMPONENTS ARE SPECIFICALLY SELECTED TO OPTIMIZE ENERGY EFFICIENCY. >> WE'RE LOOKING AT ABOUT A 27% ENERGY REDUCTION OVER FLORIDA ENERGY CODE AND THAT'S ABOUT A 40 TO 42% ENERGY REDUCTION OVER THE NATIONAL AVERAGE.

>> I WANTED THE SMALLEST POSSIBLE HOME. >> Sreenivasan: RICHARD AND ROBIN KINLEY WERE THE VERY FIRST RESIDENTS OF BABCOCK RANCH. THE SEMI-RETIRED COUPLE MOVED HERE IN JANUARY FROM THE ATLANTA AREA TO ESCAPE THE CONGESTION OF THE CITY AND LEAD A MORE ECO- FRIENDLY LIFE. >> I GREW UP ON THE EAST COAST OF FLORIDA AND I SAW HOMES JUST KIND OF THROWN UP AND NOT THOUGHT THROUGH ALL THAT WELL. >> IT'S MORE OF AN INTENTION TO LIVE IN THIS KIND OF COMMUNITY. PRETTY MUCH EVERYONE THAT'S MOVED IN SEEMS TO BE A SIMILAR MIND AS FAR AS SUSTAINABILITY. >> Sreenivasan: THE KINLEYS OWN TWO CARS, ONE OF WHICH IS ELECTRIC. EVERY GARAGE IS PRE-WIRED WITH ENOUGH POWER TO EASILY CHARGE IT. BUT LIVING IN A TOWN DESIGNED TO BE WALKABLE– BABCOCK RANCH HAS MILES OF TRAILS– THE KINLEYS SAY THEY OFTEN GO SEVERAL DAYS WITHOUT DRIVING AT ALL. >> I LOVE THE IDEA OF GETTING AWAY FROM CARS. I MEAN I THINK CARS ARE JUST LITERALLY CHOKING AMERICA TO DEATH.

>> Sreenivasan: THE TOWN IS TESTING ONE OF THE STATE'S FIRST DRIVERLESS SHUTTLE SYSTEMS, POWERED BY ELECTRICITY GENERATED FROM THE SOLAR PANELS. THE GOAL IS TO GIVE EVERY RESIDENT ACCESS TO THE VEHICLES VIA A RIDE HAILING APP. AND SYD KITSON SAYS THAT MAY BE FEASIBLE BY NEXT YEAR. >> WE'RE HOPING WITHIN TEN YEARS PEOPLE WILL HAVE NEED FOR ONLY ONE CAR AND THEN SHORTLY THEREAFTER THEY WON'T NEED A CAR AT ALL. >> Sreenivasan: IN THE MEANTIME RESIDENTS KEEP COMING, ABOUT 200 SO FAR. JASMIN AND JOSHUA DAY WEREN'T LOOKING FOR A COMMUNITY LIKE THIS. BUT JUST A WEEK AFTER DISCOVERING THE TOWN, THEY PUT A DEPOSIT DOWN ON A HOME.

>> HE HAD A CONVERSATION WITH A CO-WORKER WHO WAS JOKING WITH HIM BECAUSE WE KIND OF ARE MORE, HIPPY, I GUESS MAYBE IN SOME OF THE THINGS THAT WE DO. AND THEY WERE JOKING AND THEY WERE LIKE, "OH WE HEARD ABOUT THIS TOWN IT'S LIKE THIS SUSTAINABLE CITY THERE'S SOLAR PANELS, YOU GUYS WOULD LOVE IT." AND I LOOKED IT UP AND I WAS LIKE I REALLY ACTUALLY DO LOVE THIS TOWN. >> Sreenivasan: JOSHUA, A PHYSICAL THERAPIST, GOT A JOB AT THE LOCAL HEALTH CENTER IN THE TOWN'S COMMERCIAL HUB BEFORE THEY MOVED IN. IT'S WHERE THE FIRST BUILDINGS WENT UP. THERE'S ALSO A RESTAURANT AND COFFEE SHOP, A SMALL GROCERY STORE, AND A BRAND NEW SCHOOL AND THIS IS ALL STRATEGIC. IT'S EARLY IN THE PROJECT, BUT KITSON'S GOAL IS TO BUILD A SELF-CONTAINED TOWN: PROVIDE ROBUST LOCAL BUSINESSES WITH JOB OPPORTUNITIES SO RESIDENTS WILL BE LESS LIKELY TO JUMP IN A CAR AND LEAVE. IN FACT, JOSHUA'S NEW COMMUTE IS JUST A FIVE MINUTE BIKE RIDE.

>> FOR US, BEING PART OF LIKE A COMMUNITY OF PEOPLE WHO ARE ALSO THINKING THIS, IT'S NOT JUST OUR CHOICES. IT'S YOU KNOW BUILDERS, IT'S LANDSCAPERS, IT'S PEOPLE WHO ARE BUYING FROM THE FARMERS MARKET INSTEAD OF YOU KNOW X, Y AND Z. LIKE, FOR US IT'S REALLY AN ENDLESS STREAM OF CHOICES. >> Sreenivasan: THE SOLAR PANELS AND GREEN BUILDINGS MAY BE THE MOST VISIBLE SUSTAINABILITY FEATURES AT BABCOCK RANCH. BUT ACCORDING TO ENGINEER AMY WICKS, IT'S WATER CONSERVATION THAT SHAPED THE DESIGN OF THE COMMUNITY. >> IT'S REALLY A UNIQUE SYSTEM HERE AND IT'S REALLY NOT SOMETHING THAT'S BEEN DONE IN RESIDENTIAL DEVELOPMENTS THUS FAR. >> Sreenivasan: DRIVING ALONG THE TOWN'S ROADS YOU MIGHT NOT NOTICE THESE FLAT RIBBON CURBS. THEY ALLOW WATER TO FLOW TO WHAT ARE CALLED RAIN GARDENS, THEY'RE DESIGNED TO REPLICATE WHAT WETLANDS DO: HOLD AND FILTER WATER BEFORE IT FLOWS DOWNSTREAM.

>> INSTEAD OF JUST ENGINEERING A SYSTEM TO WORK, WE'RE ENGINEERING THE SYSTEM TO MIMIC NATURE, BECAUSE REALLY WHAT WE'VE LEARNED OVER TIME IS NATURE HAD IT RIGHT ALL ALONG. >> Sreenivasan: WICKS HAS WORKED ON WATER ENGINEERING AT BABCOCK RANCH FOR MORE THAN A DECADE. SHE SAYS THIS LAND ONCE HAD SEASONAL LAKES BEFORE IT WAS DRAINED TO MAKE WAY FOR AGRICULTURE AND MINING. >> THIS HERE IS THE WEIR THAT WE'VE DESIGNED THAT'S GOING TO HOLD BACK THAT WATER TO MIMIC THAT NATURAL SYSTEM THAT WAS HERE BEFORE, THAT NATURAL LAKE SYSTEM.

>> Sreenivasan: NORTH OF TOWN A DITCH THAT JUST A YEAR AGO LOOKED LIKE THIS HAS BEEN TRANSFORMED. >> THIS NOW HOLDS WATER, ALMOST THE ENTIRE YEAR. BACK TO WHAT THE NATURAL CONDITIONS WERE. >> Sreenivasan: AND WHAT BABCOCK RANCH IS DOING HERE HAS AN EFFECT ON NEARBY WATERWAYS. TOXIC ALGAE BLOOMS HAVE INCREASED IN FLORIDA. THEY TURN WATERWAYS GREEN, SMELL, AND CAN AFFECT BOTH HUMAN AND MARINE ANIMAL HEALTH. THE BLOOMS CAN NATURALLY OCCUR, BUT WORSEN WITH RUNOFF FROM AGRICULTURE AND DEVELOPMENT, INCLUDING FERTILIZER AND WASTE. >> WE'VE REALLY REALIZED THAT DEVELOPMENT HAS REALLY IMPACTED THE WATER QUALITY IN THE STATE OF FLORIDA.

SOMETHING LIKE THIS IS REALLY IMPORTANT JUST TO TRY TO REDUCE THE OVERALL RUNOFF THAT'S GOING OUT TO OUR GULF ULTIMATELY, OUT TO OUR OCEANS. >> SOMETHING'S ALWAYS DOWNSTREAM FROM YOU AND YOU'VE GOT TO TAKE THAT INTO ACCOUNT. >> Sreenivasan: WIN EVERHAM IS AN ECOLOGIST AT FLORIDA GULF COAST UNIVERSITY. EARLY IN THE DEVELOPMENT OF BABCOCK RANCH, HE WAS CALLED IN TO HELP SURVEY THE WILDLIFE POPULATION. AND HE'S FOLLOWED THE PROJECT'S DEVELOPMENT. >> WHAT WE KNOW WILL HAPPEN IN THE FUTURE ON THIS LANDSCAPE IS MORE PEOPLE WILL WANT TO COME HERE. AND WHAT WE'RE REALLY LACKING IS BETTER MODELS FOR HOW TO PUT THEM ON THE LAND. BABCOCK RANCH COULD BE A BETTER MODEL. >> Sreenivasan: BUT FOR ALL OF THE TOWN'S SUSTAINABILITY FEATURES, THERE ARE GAPS. FOR EXAMPLE, MOST OF THE HOMES WILL BE SINGLE FAMILY.

>> I THINK IT'S FAIR TO CRITICIZE SOME OF THE WAYS WE DEVELOP AND PART OF THE WAYS THAT BABCOCK'S BEEN DEVELOPED THAT THE MOST EFFICIENT WAY OF PUTTING PEOPLE ON THE LAND WOULD BE IN TALL APARTMENT BUILDINGS WHERE THE PEOPLE ARE CONCENTRATED AND YOU MAXIMIZE THE GREEN SPACE. >> Sreenivasan: AND WHILE GREEN SPACE HAS BEEN SET ASIDE AT BABCOCK, AND THE AMOUNT OF GRASS EACH HOME CAN HAVE IS LIMITED, SOME HAVE ARGUED THE DEVELOPERS COULD HAVE GONE FURTHER. FOR INSTANCE THEY COULD BAN LAWNS ALTOGETHER. >> WE'VE BEEN ASKED, YOU KNOW, WHY DON'T YOU JUST YOU KNOW SAY YOU CAN'T HAVE GRASS AT ALL AND YOU KNOW THE PRACTICALITY OF IT IS DIFFICULT. REMEMBER, WE DO HAVE TO SELL HOMES. >> Sreenivasan: KITSON SAYS HOMES ARE PRICED FOR DIFFERENT BUDGETS. THEY START AT AROUND $200,000, SLIGHTLY HIGHER THAN THE MEDIAN FOR THIS PART OF FLORIDA AND CAN GO AS HIGH AS $1 MILLION. KITSON SAYS AFFORDABILITY AND SUSTAINABILITY ARE NOT NECESSARILY IN CONFLICT.

>> WE NEED TO PROVE THAT BUILDING A SUSTAINABLE AND ENVIRONMENTALLY RESPONSIBLE NEW TOWN MAKES SENSE FROM AN ECONOMIC PERSPECTIVE. NOT JUST FROM THE PEOPLE WHO ARE DEVELOPING IT LIKE US, BUT FOR THE HOMEOWNERS WHO ARE GOING TO BUY HOMES AND MAKE THEIR INVESTMENTS WITHIN THE COMMUNITY. >> Sreenivasan: BUT KITSON ACKNOWLEDGES MAKING BABCOCK RANCH AS GREEN AS POSSIBLE IS STILL A WORK IN PROGRESS. >> ARE WE 100% SUSTAINABLE RIGHT NOW? NO. BUT CAN WE GET THERE? ABSOLUTELY..

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