Pushing boundaries in the name of renewable energy comes naturally to civil engineer Mike Strizki — he’s been doing it for years. But his latest project is a personal one: He’s creating the first solar hydrogen fuel-cell home in North America for his family.

His 3,000-square-foot, four-bedroom conventional modular house in Hopewell, N.J., runs on electricity generated by a garage roof covered with 56 solar panels. An electrolyzer takes any excess solar power and generates hydrogen from water stored in ten 1,000 gallon tanks. The summer sun produces 160 percent of his energy needs, providing power for heating, electricity, and cooking, as well as fuel for his hydrogen-run car and golf cart. He stores the extra hydrogen generated in the summer, tapping into it in winter when the sun only provides 60 percent of the energy the family requires.

While Strizki’s home is super energy efficient (it also features geothermal heating and cooling), it’s fully loaded with a hot tub, wide-screen TV and swimming pool.

“Americans are not going to change their lifestyles. You can be green and still have all the nice things in life,” says the 51-year-old.

But can your house boast no utility bills, no emissions, and no carbon footprint? Maybe not yet, but Strizki’s working on that. His home is a demonstration project  that cost half a million dollars to build, but Strizki only spent $100,000 — the N.J. Board of Public Utilities kicked in a $250,000 grant, and investors provided the rest. Strizki is working on securing even more funding so he can use his model to develop a commercially viable system that he hopes to introduce into the marketplace within two years.

“My house could be set up anywhere in the world without a grid,” he says. “And two thirds of the planet doesn’t have an electric grid or infrastructure.”

Strizki’s home energy system would have been up and running a lot sooner, but it got snarled in the permitting process for four years. His persistence and dedication to educating officials at the local and state levels gained him the necessary approvals. Thanks to his project, residential applications for hydrogen technology are now allowed within New Jersey’s standards and building codes.

When he’s not busy improving his house, Strizki works for Advanced Solar Products, the largest installer of solar energy systems in the Mid-Atlantic region. He also knows his way around state government, having spent more than 16 years with the Office of Research and Technology in the NJ Department of Transportation. During his tenure there he helped set tighter diesel emissions standards. He also developed natural gas and fuel-cell vehicles, one of which, the New Jersey Genesis, captured a world distance record for a zero-emission vehicle.

Despite his track record, Strizki sees his life’s work, replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy, as just beginning.

“Everything that touches our lives runs on energy, whether it’s that first cup of coffee in the morning to getting to work or to running your computer. If you solve the energy equation you’ve changed society and I’m trying to do that one piece at a time.”

For more information, visit the Hopewell Project.

Story by Linda J. Brown. This article originally appeared in "Plenty" in March 2007.

Copyright Environ Press 2007