Solar Power Eliminates Utility Bills in U.S. Home
Michael Strizki heats and cools his house year-round and runs a full range of appliances including such power-guzzlers as a hot tub and a wide-screen TV without paying a penny in utility bills.
His conventional-looking family home in the pinewoods of western New Jersey is the first in the United States to show that a combination of solar and hydrogen power can generate all the electricity needed for a home.
The Hopewell Project, named for a nearby town, comes at a time of increasing concern over U.S. energy security and worries over the effects of burning fossil fuels on the climate.
People understand that climate change is a big concern but they don't know what they can do about it. There's a psychological dividend in doing the right thing.
Strizki runs the 3,000-square-foot house with electricity generated by a 1,000-square-foot roof full of photovoltaic cells on a nearby building, an electrolyzer that uses the solar power to generate hydrogen from water, and a number of hydrogen tanks that store the gas until it is needed by the fuel cell.
In the summer, the solar panels generate 60 % more electricity than the super-insulated house needs. The excess is stored in the form of hydrogen which is used in the winter -- when the solar panels can't meet all the domestic demand -- to make electricity in the fuel cell. Strizki also uses the hydrogen to power his fuel-cell driven car, which, like the domestic power plant, is pollution-free.
Solar power currently contributes only 0.1 % of U.S. energy needs but the number of photovoltaic installations grew by 20 % in 2006, and the cost of making solar panels is dropping by about 7 % annually, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
As costs decline and the search accelerates for clean alternatives to expensive and dirty fossil fuels, some analysts predict solar is poised for a significant expansion in the next five to 10 years.