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The Electrifying Saga Of “Marie’s Folly”

When Marie Stiefel decided to build an energy-efficient home, she knew that it’s not easy being green. But now she’s selling power back to Vero Beach Utilities!

Marie Stiefel, here with her two Maltese Amo and Kylie, overlooks her gardens of native plants. “Living here is like being on retreat all of the time,” she says.

Marie Stiefel, here with her two Maltese Amo and Kylie, overlooks her gardens of native plants. “Living here is like being on retreat all of the time,” she says.

Marie Stiefel says “I am old enough to have lived through the energy crisis of the ’70s, which taught me a few things.” Waiting in line for hours for gas started her thinking about energy and began what has become a passion for her: learning about alternative energy. Today she and her daughter, Lili, fund bright energy ideas with their family foundation.

Even before that, she was inspired by her late husband, a chemical engineer and owner of an international pharmaceutical company, who had built an energy-efficient home in the 1950s in Green County in upstate New York. (He was green before Kermit or the Green Movement!) Unlike Florida, the issue in New York was heat preservation. Mr. Stiefel used the traditional technology of that day, which is still used today, that of hyper-insulation of walls and roof.

The Stiefels decided to move south when “my husband got tired of seeing his breath.” They read an article in the Harvard Business Review “extolling the virtues of the multi-national community of Coral Gables,” in Miami. It sounded interesting and more importantly, it was a tropical climate. So they moved their international company and themselves to Coral Gables in 1979. There, they used solar heat for all of their hot-water needs. Stiefel says the challenge back then was conforming to strict building codes that focused on aesthetics, not energy conservation. Solar panels, for example, were considered “too unattractive.”

Read the entire article in the March 2012 issue