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Alliant Energy workers underground wires in Decorah, Iowa.

Babcock Ranch: A reliability case study

Hurricane Ian pummeled Florida earlier this year, causing large-scale damage, including extended power outages, injuries and deaths. But a community just 12 miles north of Fort Myers, Florida, survived nearly 10 hours of Hurricane Ian without any residents losing power.

How can that be? Well, it’s thanks to being a solar-powered town. In fact, Babcock Ranch is the first solar-powered town in America and has multiple features that allow it to withstand severe weather.

Babcock Ranch’s solar-plus-battery system allows nearly 150 megawatts (MW) of solar power to charge a 10-MW battery as a backup. Underground electric and phone lines allowed the community to withstand the winds and heavy rain and recover from the storm damage in just one day.

Across the country, many utility companies are testing ways to diversify their energy mix to ensure power is readily available when customers need and expect it. For example, we’ve announced plans to build nearly 1,500 MW of solar energy across Iowa and Wisconsin as well as 250 MW of battery by the end of 2025. We also place lines underground when and where it’s cost-effective.

This has many benefits:

  • Greater reliability. Underground lines decrease the number and duration of outages. They’re less susceptible to damage from animals, falling branches and other acts of nature.
  • Improved safety. Residential customers can perform yardwork and farmers can harvest without the danger of contacting overhead lines. There are no poles vehicles can crash into or trees can fall on. Storms don’t leave live wires on the ground.
  • Better aesthetics. Most customers prefer the cleaner look compared to overhead lines.

At Alliant Energy, we continue to explore advancements to further strengthen our infrastructure against the elements by progressing with our Clean Energy Blueprint, the pilot Boaz microgrid and other development projects, including battery energy storage systems. 

This means we will continue to deliver the clean, safe, reliable energy you expect day in and day out!

Chris is a Communications Partner specializing in Alliant Energy’s renewable investments. Coming from a journalism background, he’s excited to tell the story of Alliant Energy’s Clean Energy Blueprint and other renewable trends in new and exciting ways.

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