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The ice storm 25 years later: Quebec family says their solar-powered home is the way of the future

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Twenty-five years ago this week, Quebec was plunged into one of the worst natural disasters in Canadian history.

The 1998 ice storm left thousands in the dark for days after freezing rain pelted the province and damaged hydro wires.

Jose Legris remembers scrambling to keep his family fed, firing up the barbeque and braving the outside elements.

"We had to use our imagination to survive in that situation," Legris said.

These days, it would be a different story. His home in Mascouche, Que. is outfitted with an array of solar panels generating power for every appliance and light switch.

"You need to keep your showers short," said his wife, Aurora Pinzon, "and consider your energy usage throughout the day," adding that’s what homeowners should be doing in any house.

Emmanuel Cosgrove, the director of ecohome.net, a resource to help residents build and renovate their homes in a sustainable way, said Legris' house is a pilot project for what could be the model for many other homes by 2050.

"This home looks like any other home, but it's actually net zero, meaning it produces as much energy as it consumes on an annual basis," he said.

"This is basically a snapshot of the future home in Canada, and it's right here in Mascouche."

Last year, Hydro-Quebec pledged to look into solar tech like this to boost the power grid.

To go carbon neutral, it needs to generate 100 more terawatt hours — more than half its current capacity.

Cosgrove said installing a system like this costs around $20,000, a high cost for a single person or family, but not an energy utility.

"The roofs are already there, the infrastructure is already in place. All we have to do is put the panels on … create a place for the wiring, and away we go," he said.

"It’s not a massive infrastructure for a public utility like Hydro-Quebec."

He hopes the idea catches on in order to cut down on excess emissions and to protect families from future storms.

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