Despite the hype, renewable power still faces hurdles to becoming a mainstream source of energy. Along with the need to bring down prices, renewables also need to perform on a mass scale.

A new real estate development appears to have addressed that issue. In April, Florida-based real estate developer, Kitson & Partners, announced a landmark agreement with electric utility Florida Power & Light (FPL) to build the world’s largest solar photovoltaic power plant at Babcock Ranch in southwest Florida. The facility has the added distinction of creating the world’s first city powered by solar energy.

The 17,000-acre, master-planned, Babcock Ranch will consume less power than the proposed FPL on-site solar facilities will produce, allowing it to become the first city on earth powered by zero--emission solar energy. It also will be home to an integrated smart grid that will provide greater efficiencies and allow residents and businesses to monitor and control their energy consumption. All commercial buildings and homes in the new city will be certified as energy-efficient and constructed according to Florida Green Building Council standards.

The city of Babcock Ranch ultimately will include 6 million square feet of retail, commercial, office, civic and light industrial space. The entire city will be wireless-enabled, and an ultra-high-capacity digital pipeline will support the use of current and emerging technologies. It also will feature sustainable water management and conservation, street lamps designed to reduce light pollution, electric car chargers, and green roofs that reduce energy loss.

Subject to state of Florida approvals, groundbreaking on the FPL solar facility is targeted for late 2009, with construction of the city center targeted for mid-2010 and construction of the first residential and commercial buildings targeted for late 2010. Promoters boast that the city will generate 20,000 permanent jobs.