When Hurricane Sandy was flooding New Jersey shores and wreaking havoc throughout the state, many Hopewell residents flocked to Michael Strizki’s home, the only house that had not lost power or running water in the neighborhood.
Why? Because Strizki, an inventor, has been living without electricity for 16 years.
“They had no water to flush toilets, refrigerators went bad and they couldn’t get a drink of water,” Strizki said.
For six days, neighbors would stop by Strizki’s to charge their phones, get water, and take showers because Sandy had knocked out all the electricity.
The generators that failed Strizki’s neighbors were useless to his home—which he converted to run on hydrogen and solar energy, making his home the first solar hydrogen residence in North America.
This is Strizki’s vision for the world: for society to leave fossil fuels in the past. To accomplish this mission, he founded the Hydrogen House Project, a nonprofit whose mission is to educate the public and conduct research on clean energy solutions.
“If people only know oil is on the menu, that’s all people are going to eat. We have to let them know there are other things on the menu,” Strizki says.
Since he has converted his home, the Hydrogen House Project has installed solar hydrogen systems for homes and businesses and established hydrogen powered cars, boats, planes, lawnmowers and more.
Strizki also gives tours to schools of his home, where Hyundai just filmed their soon to be released worldwide commercial promoting their hydrogen powered 2019 car, the Nexo.
His home is not the only thing powered by solar and hydrogen energy on his property. “Basically anything you can do with fossil fuel you can do with hydrogen,” he said. “At my house, gas heating gas, fuel for the car, and more all comes from energy emitted three months of the year from the big nuclear ball in the sky.”
With the solar panels at his home, he harnesses energy which goes into an electrolyzer that splits water into hydrogen and oxygen and is stored in tanks. Then, he runs the hydrogen through a fuel cell which generates electricity and powers his off grid property. He has not needed to pay an electric bill for years.
Strizki is the first to privately own a hydrogen fuel cell powered car. “I just put a hydrogen refueling station in my home at Hopewell so I can fill up my car from sunshine. This technology has no moving parts, no tune ups, no oil changes, no belts, no mufflers, no maintenance.”
Hydrogen is now being used for transportation purposes. Strizki is a member of the NJ Fuel Cell Coalition and has been working with the NJ Department of Transportation and legislature to put these vehicles in place in the state.
The only by-product of this energy source is pure oxygen and drinking water. The water then can be used to be converted back into hydrogen.
“I’m trying to make the world a better place,” Strizki said. “If your energy makes pure oxygen and pure drinking water when you use it, that’s how we’ll heal the planet.”
Currently, Strizki travels between New Jersey and California as he works on hydrogen powered microgrids for all the people that lost power and their homes due to the wildfires.
“People are getting serious now when they can’t rely on a utility company, we’re seeing a trend now that people want renewable energy with microgrids, our systems make their own fuel every single day,” says Strizki.
With this energy source, “you are your own oil refinery,” Strizki says. “People who are fighting this technology are soon going to have to join it.”
He has spent the last eight years making the hydrogen house cost effective. “The hydrogen world when i started no one knew about it,” Strizki says. “They said renewable would never be cheap enough to make the fuel.”
In 2015, he did the first commercially affordable hydrogen house conversion in Pennington. With this accomplishment, he says anyone is now able to have their home converted.
“It would be more cost effective as more of these systems are built and increases in technology takes place,” Strizki says. “We’re ready for mass adoption around the world.”
He has also worked with a few celebrities who wanted to switch to hydrogen energy. He partnered with Johnny Depp to install a solar-hydrogen system to power Depp’s privately owned island in the Bahamas.
Strizki believes that oil companies will eventually need to make the switch to solar and hydrogen energy. ‘It’s not going to be whether they’re going to adopt this new technology, its when.”
When he converted his home in 2006, he believes he was 16 years ahead of his time. He initially faced opposition to convert his home from the New Jersey Board of Trustees and Hopewell Township.
“I decided that after working with vehicles that I was going to do this with my home,” Strizki says.
He applied for a grant with the stateBoard of Public Utilities which he eventually received three and a half years later after going through permitting hassles and facing much opposition.
When Hurricane Sandy hit, he says many of the neighbors that showed up at his house were the ones who fought him on obtaining the permits for converting his home. He also had fights with the town’s Department of Community Affairs.
Even the zoning officer would not allow his project initially. Strizki says he had to get the zoning regulations changed, have town meetings, and had to get the mayor to rewrite the laws.
“This was not an easy task. I had a huge ball to roll, these guys are not innovators,” Strizki said. “I had to educate the public on hydrogen safety.”
Strizki thanks the power of the press, specifically the New York Times, who gave his project news coverage and helped get it approved. Since then, he has made news all over the world.
The Board of Public Utilities that threatened to cancel his project eventually gave Strizki an award and called his project the most successful project they had ever done.
“No good deed goes unpunished, if you dont fight for your rights you won’t have any,” he says.
His inspiration to convert his home and switch to an eco-friendly lifestyle comes after working as an engineer for over 16 years with the NJ Department of Transportation in the Office of Research and Technology. There, he used to work with electric vehicles and natural gases developing renewable energy technologies. One of his projects involved the first use of fuel cells.
In July of 2000, he began to work at Millennium Cell in Eatontown, New Jersey, where he got to travel the world building hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. He helped set a world record working on the New Jersey Genesis car which ran for 470 miles on the equivalent of one gallon of gasoline with the fuel cell. He also went to California to develop a hydrogen fuel cell boat.
“We have now subsequently built other hydrogen homes. People understand and we have actually changed a lot of the laws in NJ as well as international building codes.”
The Hydrogen House Project offers internships where they teach students about hydrogen fuel cells and renewable energy. A recent project with the students involved putting a fuel cell on an ATV.
A major goal of Strizki’s is education and outreach. He brings his hydrogen car around for different demonstrations at schools and car shows.
The Hydrogen House Project is a volunteer organization with currently around ten people involved. They are looking to raise money for schools that cannot afford to visit to tour Strizki’s Hydrogen House.
Anyone who believes in the cause for transitioning to clean, renewable energy can donate online to the Hydrogen House Project to help fund future projects.
“We started the hydrogen house project to be a beacon of light in the sea and murkiness of fossil fuels and pollution,” Strizki says. “My goal in life is to leave the gift of renewable energy to the next generation so that they have the tools to solve the problems that our generation caused.”