Los Altos family goes off the grid


It is more than just another energy self-sufficient house. One in the Los Altos Hills is a matter of its owners practicing what they preach and teach.

When asked whose idea was it to get the house neutral, Adadeh Tabazadh, Ph.D., replied, "My husband's idea."

But not so fast... because while Tabazadh studies the ozone layer, her husband -- Stanford professor Mark Z. Jacobson, Ph.D., -- is an environmental engineer who has just co-authored a study that draws a blueprint for worldwide clean energy sustainability within 30-40 years.

"It's a question of societal and political will," says Jacobson.

And the family house, a working example of how present technologies could get it done. Solar cells on the roof power everything, from water to air to heating to their electric car.

"I think you need money to invest in devices, but they usually make up for their cost in 10 or 15 years," says Tabazadh.

They began the installing the system in 2004, paying roughly $30,000 or $35,000 for all the equipment and now, in the spring and summer, they have no electric bills at all.

"The lesson is we can individually help to solve the problem, but really we need to collectively get together to solve this on a large scale," says Jacobson.

Jacobsen's study found that the world has no technological or scientific barriers to converting to clean energy. It envisions 90 percent of our electricity generated by sun and wind, and for no more money than we spend today, with other factors added.

"The solar is more expensive today than coal or [natural] gas, however when you add the health effects of the coal and the gas together, then solar power becomes about the same price," says Jacobson.

All a matter of visualizing, he says. If one family can do it with a house, why not a world?

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