Earlier this year Google, IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) and partners announced the Little Box Challenge, an attempt to help create a much more efficient and power-dense inverter to reduce the cost and size of the inverters that convert solar power into AC-electricity usable in homes and businesses. The challenge carries a $1 million prize. Now the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) has agreed to test the inverters submitted to the challenge.
Google’s challenge, which is open through Sept. 30 is to create an inverter with enough power density to convert 50 watts of DC power to AC power in a square inch. An inverter with that power density would shrink the size of a home-scale power inverter from about three feet by two feet to about the size of a laptop computer or tablet.
Now NREL has agreed to test each of the 18 finalists at its Energy Systems Integration Facility (ESIF) in Golden, Col. There researchers will subject the finalists to 100 hours of testing under typical operating conditions. Google will use the test results to help them decide which inverter wins the prize. Google plans to announce the grand prize winner in late 2015 or early 2016.
"The Energy Systems Integration Facility was designed as a user facility with the goal to bring in partners, such as Google, to work on disruptive, cutting-edge technology," said Martha Symko-Davies, who manages partnerships for the lab's Energy Systems Integration programs. "We are excited to play a significant role in Google's challenge to the industry."
Google intends to help innovators shrink the size and cost of inverters to help further decrease the costs of solar power for homes and businesses. The company said it will help make inverters cheaper to produce and install and could help bring electricity to more remote areas.Tweet