Zero-Energy House: It Uses Solar Power and Hydrogen


The New York Times just published a report on home that uses a unique system to generate hydrogen using solar power. The system was built by Mike Strizki, the 50-year-old director of Advanced Solar Products, a solar installation company, designed a backyard power plant that provides all the house’s energy, using a combination of solar panels and solar-generated hydrogen. Here’s how the solar-hydrogen house works. The solar panels above Strizki’s garage generate electricity, which goes directly to power his house. For about seven months of the year, the panels are designed to make more electricity than the house needs, as much as 60 percent more during the summertime.

Strizki’s system takes this extra electricity and runs it through an electrolyzer, which uses technology invented in the mid-19th century to convert electricity and water into a modest quantity of hydrogen — the energy equivalent of about a gallon of gasoline each summer day — which is then sent to the tanks outside. In this inaugural shakedown year, Strizki had to purchase his hydrogen (19,000 cubic feet of it, at a total cost of about $2,000) to prime his empty tanks. According to Strizki, that’s the last fuel bill he will ever have. Though he will continue to monitor the system, measuring the amount of hydrogen produced, the hydrogen should act like a natural battery bank that never dies or degrades. During the winter months, the solar panels should still provide about 60 percent of the power to the house, he said. It’s then that the accumulated hydrogen will be siphoned from the storage tanks to a fuel cell, which will simply reverse the process of the electrolyzer, reconfiguring the hydrogen back to water and electricity.

Although 19,000 cubic feet of hydrogen may sound like a lot, it really isn’t. It is, Strizki explained, the energy equivalent of only about a single tank of gasoline in a large S.U.V., yet this would be more than enough hydrogen to provide the house with all the heating, cooking, hot water and additional electrical power needed to last through the dark winter months. Soon, he said, the same amount of hydrogen could be stored in a single tank at high pressure, substantially reducing the “storage footprint.” But for now he chose 10 tanks at low pressure, in part to avoid alarming New Jersey’s building inspectors with the prospect of pressurized hydrogen.

Full story at the New York Times

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