What could be better than the power and convenience of solar energy? As long as the sun keeps rising up off our horizon, we should have more than enough energy to absorb and use, right? Well, that may be true for most days, but not all. Because of this inconsistency in daylight, solar energy has been viewed as "unreliable," and therefore not good enough for our ever-growing appetite for power. But that may change thanks to civil engineer Mike Strizki. When posed the issue of unreliable solar power, he turned to another green technology to compensate: hydrogen fuel cells.
During the summertime, Strizki's 150 solar panels produce more than enough energy for his house in New Jersey. But during the winter, the panels fall short of their energy quota. So to make up for this deficit, all extra energy produced is sent to an electrolyzer. There, the extra energy is used to split the molecules of purified tap water into hydrogen and oxygen and then vents the oxygen and sends the hydrogen to on of 11 tanks. When he needs more energy during the winter or on a cloudy day, he can use hydrogen fuel cells to convert the stored energy back into usable electricity and continue enjoying life off the grid.
But such a project as the Hydrogen House didn't come without a price. Strizki invested about $500,000 in the operation, and says the cost has now come down to $175,000- the price tag for another such building in the Cayman Islands where he recently installed the technology. Actually, the cost could come down further to about $60,000 if the mass production of components achieved economies of scale. Even though this price is drastically lower and the technology eventually pays itself off, it's still more than what a majority of people can afford up front, but there's still hope. Strizki foresees the technology becoming financially attractive if it's adopted on a community-wide scale.
To transition from non-renewable resources to hydrogen-solar technology, a revolution is in order. A revolution Strizki is looking forward to leading. Because of his technology, Strizki has been living off the grid since 2006 and has become the voice of the Hydrogen House ever since. Seeing the potential this technology holds, Mike Strizki is convinced that hydrogen-solar technology is a powerful tool if we are going to topple our old energy habits. With it, the solar revolution has taken one more step to reliability, and therefore, we have taken one more step to a healthier, smarter world.
Photo and information sources: http://energy.aol.com/2011/08/13/completely-off-the-grid/
Director of Design and Construction Elect