Neighborhoods of the Future: Run by the Sun

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Solar energy is an ever-expanding choice for individuals, families, neighborhoods and even towns. It is at the forefront of cutting-edge and modern convenience. Not only does it have value in name but also in function.

In the current sociopolitical climate, consumers are increasingly conscious about how they can make cost-effective choices that leave less of a negative impact on the earth. The World Wildlife Fund reports that solar energy is more affordable and accessible than ever. This means more ideal and cost-effective living solutions with a modern edge.

To understand what solar energy can do for a sustainable lifestyle, it’s important to know how it works. A solar panel, which is a film-like grid of silicon with light-capturing capability, is placed in an area where it can collect a steady stream of light. The light captured by the panel is converted to energy using a photovoltaic cell. Put simply, a photovoltaic cell is a small unit that helps to convert photons, or light particles, into energy. These panels can be fitted on homes, businesses, hospitals and just about anywhere else you can think of! The solar panels do the heavy lifting where the production of energy is concerned. Using the sun has a pretty significant positive impact on both the environment and your wallet when the energy produced isn’t being generated by traditional turbines out of power plants.

One Florida town has harnessed the power of the sun in every way imaginable. Babcock Ranch, a town just north of Fort Meyers, is America’s first solar powered town. With boundless amenities and small-town charm, it has captivated the attention of many homebuyers. Moving to a town that’s fully solar powered may inspire thoughts of downgrading, but here it’s anything but! Babcock Ranch boasts an ice cream parlor, restaurants, shopping and so much more. Solar trees, an innovative combination of technology, functionality and art at Founder’s Square and other neighborhood parks, serve as charging stations for residents’ handheld devices. Built from the ground up for sustainability, this town harnesses energy from its very own solar energy plant in partnership with Florida Power & Light, ensuring that the net production of renewable energy exceeds the total amount the town will consume. They even offer limited solar tours for guests visiting Babcock Ranch.

Reynolds Landing is a “Smart Neighborhood” located in Hoover, Alabama. Any technophile will instantly be attracted to this sleek, eco-friendly neighborhood. Alabama Power developed this neighborhood in collaboration with a regional builder of home communities. These homes feature such conveniences as locks that operate by using your smartphone to lock and unlock doors, cameras in refrigerators that show you what you need to pick up from the grocery store, and garages outfitted with charging stations for electric vehicles as an added convenience for those choosing a greener lifestyle. Not only will this home appease those with an appetite for modern convenience but also those who are interested in responsible, budget-friendly living. On average, these homes are 35 percent more energy efficient than the average, comparably built home.

In New Orleans, Louisiana, an apartment community has received an earth-wise facelift. A local Louisiana agency, seeing it in need of repairs and reinvigoration, set to work updating the apartments, which are spread over roughly eight blocks of space and house families of varying income levels. Still, the option to upgrade is allowing the residents to save without having to sacrifice. The solar-powered apartments save the residents about $50 a month on their electrical bill.

Solar energy is increasing in popularity and sustainability, for neighborhoods and communities and also in large cities with high demand for electricity. Cities such as San Diego, Los Angeles and Honolulu are at the top of the list for the most manageable and efficient-energy solutions. Solar grids help power homes and apartments as well as businesses, modes of transportation and medical facilities. Clean energy is a meaningful and highly sustainable practice. These cities have made the choice to implement solar energy in order to create better lives for their residents now and for those in the future.

Solar energy isn’t just a fixture in urban areas. Many farms, small towns and residents in more rural areas use solar panels as an effective way to save money and positively impact the environment. Sustainable living using solar energy is a practice that benefits everyone! An online tool from Project Sunroof, a Google-powered entity, called the Solar Savings Estimator, can help you calculate eco-friendly adjustments you can make to your home and just how much you can save by choosing those adjustments. Though it may vary in style, technology, modern appearance and structure, solar energy is arguably the most dependable source of energy moving forward into the future. ■

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