EAST AMWELL, N.J. – Mike Strizki lives in the nation’s first solar-hydrogen house. The technology this civil engineer has been able to string together â€“ solar panels, a hydrogen fuel cell, storage tanks, and a piece of equipment called an electrolyzer â€“ provides electricity to his home year-round, even on the cloudiest of winter days.
Mr. Strizki’s monthly utility bill is zero â€“ he’s off the power grid â€“ and his system creates no carbon-dioxide emissions. Neither does the fuel-cell car parked in his garage, which runs off the hydrogen his system creates.
It sounds promising, even utopian: homemade, storable energy that doesn’t contribute to global warming. But does Strizki’s method â€“ converting electricity generated from renewable sources into hydrogen â€“ make sense for widespread adoption?
According to some renewable-energy experts, the answer is “no,” at least not anytime soon. The system is too expensive, they say, and the process of creating hydrogen from clean sources is itself laced with inefficiency â€“ the numbers just don’t add up.
Strizki’s response: “Nothing is as wildly expensive as destroying the whole planet.”
On sunny days, solar panels on the roof of Strizki’s detached garage generate more than enough electricity to power his home. The excess electricity powers a device inside the garage called an electrolyzer, which transforms a tank of water into its base elements â€“ oxygen and hydrogen.
The oxygen is released into the atmosphere, while the hydrogen is stored in 10 1,000-gallon propane tanks on Strizki’s property. In the winter, when the solar panels collect less energy than the home needs, that hydrogen is piped to an air-conditioner-size fuel cell, located just outside the garage, which generates electricity.
The final piece of the equation is “The New Jersey Genesis,” a hydrogen fuel-cell car Strizki helped design and now maintains for the New Jersey Department of Transportation. He can fill up the Genesis with hydrogen from his electrolyzer and drive it pollution free.