Advanced Search

Please click here to take a brief survey

Small-Scale Smart Grid in Massachusetts
Julia Levitt, 23 Dec 08

3129522270_1c38ab2597.jpgA recent occurrence in a small New England town has us thinking that a working future for the smart garage -- a concept which promises symbiotic energy-sharing links between buildings, plug-in hybrid vehicles and the energy grid -- is not too far off.

When residents of Harvard, Massachusetts were hit with an ice storm that left many without power for a full four days, one innovative neighbor successfully used his Prius as a generator.

From last Friday's edition of the independent local publication The Harvard Press:

Around the corner at Madigan Lane, John Sweeney, a member of the town’s conservation-minded Heat Advisory Committee, took a characteristically green approach to powering his home during the storm. He reported his achievement in an e-mail, saying it was no big deal, but that his wife thought it an impressive tale worth sharing: Sweeney ran his refrigerator, freezer, TV, woodstove fan, and several lights through his Prius, for three days, on roughly five gallons of gas.
“When it looked like we were going to be without power for awhile, I dug out an inverter (which takes 12v DC and creates 120v AC from it) and wired it into our Prius…These inverters are available for about $100 many places online,” he wrote.
The device allowed the engine to run every half hour, automatically charging the car battery and indirectly supplying the required power.

Read more about smart grids in these articles from the Worldchanging archives:

Smart Garage: An Integration Revolution

Smart Grid, Meet the Product-Service Model

Smart Grids, Grid Computing, and the New World of Energy

Smart Energy Grids

Photo credit: flickr/Raymond Brigleb, Creative Commons license.

Bookmark and Share


Smart idea, it would be great if the auto companies threw in the inverters with the purchase or lease of the cars.

Posted by: Jim on 24 Dec 08

So, how does the efficiency of using the Prius as a generator compare to the efficiency of the average standalone gasoline generator?

Posted by: greensolutions on 24 Dec 08

I'm not an expert on generators by any means, but this site offers an overview that seems pretty thorough: It says that to run a 3,500 watt generator for 4 hours at 50% capacity to power basic home energy needs like the refrigerator and freezer would require 3 gallons of gasoline. Comparing that to the story above, which states that "Sweeney ran his refrigerator, freezer, TV, woodstove fan, and several lights through his Prius, for three days, on roughly five gallons of gas," it seems like the Prius is more fuel efficient. I'd like to welcome anyone with more mechanical expertise to weigh in on this!

Posted by: Julia Levitt on 24 Dec 08

Don't forget that the Prius has a gigantic battery in it already (to power the electric motor) and that battery might have been used to power the items mentioned. I don't think its an apples to apples comparison between the generator and the Prius.

Posted by: Chris on 10 Feb 09

Post A Comment

Please note that comments will remain open for only 14 days after the article is posted. While previous comments will remain visible, attempts to post new comments after this period will fail. This helps stop comment spam, so your forebearance is appreciated.

The Worldchanging comments are meant to be used for further exploration and evaluation of the ideas covered in our posts. Please note that, while constructive disagreement is fine, insults and abuse are not, and will result in the comment being deleted and a likely ban from commenting. We will also delete at will and without warning comments we believe are designed to disrupt a conversation rather than contribute to it. In short, we'll kill troll posts.

Finally, please note that comments which simply repost copyrighted works or commercial messages will be summarily deleted.

Yes No







MESSAGE (optional):

Search Worldchanging

Worldchanging Newsletter Get good news for a change —
Click here to sign up!


Website Design by Eben Design | Logo Design by Egg Hosting | Hosted by Amazon AWS | Problems with the site? Send email to tech /at/
Architecture for Humanity - all rights reserved except where otherwise indicated.

Find_us_on_facebook_badge.gif twitter-logo.jpg