Rational Cause for Optimism

Rational Cause for Optimism: Hurricane Strength Resilience

Babcock Ranch Solar Array (Photo Credit: Babcock Ranch)

Rational Cause for Optimism: Hurricane Strength Resilience 

From our bird's-eye view of the renewable energy industry, we often see positive developments for humanity before they become common knowledge. The purpose of this blog is to highlight the clean energy innovations and sustainability actions that are legitimate cause for optimism despite the very real threats to people and the environment posed by climate damage.

by ReVision Energy co-founder Phil Coupe

Photo Credit: Florida Fish & WildlifeAlthough New England is generally north of the southern coastal geography known as “Hurricane Alley,” we install solar arrays in Maine, New Hampshire, and Massachusetts that are designed to withstand 100+ mph winds, just in case a lethal storm like Hurricane Sandy ($70B in damage + 230 deaths) strays into our region. . 

This abundance of caution is partly due to regulations, but is also the correct way to make our energy systems resilient in the face of climate damage, which is already making weather events more extreme and damaging because of warmer ocean temperatures. 

Are current solar array design and installations standards going to be strong enough for that inevitable day when a super storm comes our way in northern New England?

Amidst the devastation inflicted upon Florida’s Gulf Coast by Category 4 Hurricane Ian, there was a shining oasis of resilience that might be cause for optimism regarding our ability to keep the power on when Mother Nature goes catastrophic. 

Anchored by a 700,000-panel solar array and located just 25 miles from the wreckage of Fort Myers, FL (ground zero during Hurricane Ian), Babcock Ranch is a community specifically designed to withstand whatever weather events come its way. All of Babcock Ranch’s electrical infrastructure is buried underground, and the landscaping is designed such that individual lots and the entire parcel shed water to large retaining ponds and streets so that houses don’t flood. 

How-Solar-Works-at-Babcock-Ranch-.jpegDuring Hurricane Ian, Babcock Ranch developer Syd Kitson and sustainability design engineer Jennifer Languell both decided to ride out the storm in their resilient homes. According to Kitson, Languell, and other residents who stayed despite evacuation warnings, Babcock Ranch passed its first severe hurricane test with flying colors. One traffic light at the entrance was knocked down, along with some palm trees and signs, but that was the sum total of damage to the resilient community. Among the 2,000 homes built so far, not a single one lost power, internet, or water.

For people who like this approach to sustainable living, there’s room for another 28,000 homes in the community. 

ST-BabcockPreserve-2020-1536x1024-1.jpgWith homes starting at $250,000 each, Babcock Ranch is generally affordable compared with other retirement home communities in Florida and in the Northeast. Kitson and Languell said they welcome “imitators” to copy their design to build resilient communities elsewhere, which is a high likelihood considering the many billion dollars of storm damage still left to be cleaned up throughout Florida. 

With storms predicted to become increasingly forceful around the globe, it’s time for every community to start hardening infrastructure in pursuit of resilience. The good news is that we have already begun that important work here, so that we’ll be ready if and when a super storm finds its way to northern New England.