This is the cure, not the treatment

Strizki in front of an hydrogen refueling station
© Hydrogen House Project

“Who cares if H2 production is inefficient? Free is still free!”

Mike Strizki is more than infatuated with hydrogen. He’s dedicated to it, saying he has a lifelong commitment to the most plentiful element on Earth – that it is essential to bringing about zero emissions. And allowing his eight grandchildren to live healthier and more productive lives.

Before it was cool, Strizki started fiddling with cars that burn hydrogen as a fuel. But in 2006, he added a new layer of complexity to his eccentric life: He built a hydrogen-powered home in New Jersey, U.S. And then he built a second. And now he constructs them for celebrities, one of whom is Johnny Depp. Before he was the founder of the Hydrogen House Project, he served for years as a government engineer developing renewable energy technologies.

“I’m into the entire hydrogen industry,” Strizki told H2-international, which is everything “from political lobbying to building prototype systems and refueling stations.” As far as the Hydrogen House, “in three months – April, May and June – we make all the energy we need from solar.” The hydrogen and oxygen are stored in tanks before it is run through a fuel cell.

“The whole purpose of the Hydrogen House is to educate the public that we have something else on the menu,” he adds. “If people do not know something about it, they can’t order it. This technology is real. The world’s largest companies have adopted it: Amazon distribution centers have 300 forklifts powered by hydrogen. And Walmart has them too.”

To say that Strizki is passionate is an understatement – driven to make the world a better place for his grandchildren. And he sees hydrogen reaching its potential by 2030. The building blocks are in place. Toyota is all in. Even Exxon Mobil has said it is in. And the oil and gas companies are saying that their pipeline infrastructure is capable of carrying hydrogen along with their products.

Pure hydrogen is stored in a tank before it is piped to a fuel cell to create clean electricity. Fuel cells will be cheaper than a Toyota Corolla engine, he says, because they will no longer need platinum. And that makes the electrolyzer cheaper – the key device that creates an electric current to split apart the hydrogen and oxygen from the water where it is found. While Strizki is upbeat about falling costs, others say it will make take time and that the cost of an electrolyzer has to fall from USD 840 per kilowatt to USD 420 per kilowatt. That could happen in 2040, not 2030.

But what about efficiency?

Even hydrogen’s most ardent advocates acknowledge that significant energy losses occur when hydrogen is produced and transported: As much as 70 percent of the energy content may get lost. But Strizki says that all this is irrelevant if the price of hydrogen becomes cheaper than a gallon of gasoline and if the hydrogen is produced from renewable sources that are free.

“With so much renewable energy, who cares if hydrogen production is inefficient,” he says. “Free is still free. We can do seasonable storage of energy and pump the hydrogen into the existing pipelines – as much as 20 percent. This is the cure, not the treatment. Once the infrastructure gets in place, we will be hard pressed to resume burning carbon.”

If all the pieces are in place, what’s the holdup? The U.S. American blames vested economic interest. But he goes on to say that if you are an energy company then you don’t want to be an oil company: It is tantamount to landline phones, Blockbuster video rentals and Kodak film. Would you rather be a mobile carrier, Netflix and digital film in today’s economy? he asks. And mass production is coming – just like it has for big-screen TVs, which were once price-exorbitant but that are now cheap. When all the major carmakers start producing hydrogen cars, the cost will keep falling – now around USD 40,000 for Toyotas.

… Read more in the latest H2-International e-Journal, May 2021

Author: Ken Silverstein

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