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Florida's Cleantech City to Get Solar Plant from FPL

Florida has moved one step closer to building a brand-new city centered around the use of clean technology, with real estate developer Kitson & Partners saying today that it’s signed a deal with Florida Power & Light for the construction of a 75-megawatt solar photovoltaic plant. According to Kitson & Partners spokeswoman Lisa Hall, the city that will be known as Babcock Ranch won’t actually be getting its power directly from the solar plant, but since it’s expected to use less power than the plant will generate, it will supposedly be carbon-neutral.

The plant will be plugged into the grid, as will the city, which will be an overall cleantech showcase, with energy-efficient buildings, roof-mounted solar panels, a smart grid and more.

babcock_ranch

A spokeswoman for Florida Power & Light, part of the FPL Group (s FPL), told us that the utility will own the solar plant. It’s expected to cost $300 million to build, and according to Kitson, if the project gets approval from the state, construction could get under way later this year. Construction of the city center itself is expected to start by mid-2010, and possibly work on the first residential and commercial buildings as well.

It’s a good sign that FPL has come on board for the solar power plant, because without some significant support — such as an oil-rich emirate in the case of  Abu Dhabi’s planned Masdar City — the idea of a cleantech city comes off as very pie-in-the-sky. Kitson also received a $750 million funding commitment from Chicago’s Evergreen Real Estate Partners last September for residential and commercial real estate developments in Florida. But potential challenges remain, among them the realities of today’s real estate market, and the economy in general, which could make it hard to get anchor tenants for the commercial buildings — or people willing to pay a premium for the energy-efficient homes.

The proposed 17,000-acre city won’t be as big as Masdar, but the Babcock Ranch, set to be constructed near Fort Myers, will sport some of the same innovations, and an equally big budget. In addition to the solar power plant, Babcock Ranch will have electric car chargers, green roofs, and a natural storm water system.

According to the project’s web site, filter marshes, similar to natural wetlands, will clean the storm water and also slow the flow of surface water, reducing impacts downstream. The plans also call for Babcock City to use harvested rainwater, and to re-use treated water for irrigation. Under a deal with the state, more than half of Babcock Ranch will be permanently protected as greenways and open space. The entire project is expected to be complete in 2019.

Rendering of the planned city courtesy of Kitson & Partners.

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