Google Reveals 'Little Box Challenge' Rules for Contest's $1M Prize

By Todd R. Weiss  |  Posted 2014-07-23 Print this article Print
green IT

Whoever succeeds in building a better, smaller inverter "will help change the future of electricity," he wrote. "A smaller inverter could help create low-cost microgrids in remote parts of the world. Or allow you to keep the lights on during a blackout via your electric car's battery. Or enable advances we haven't even thought of yet."

The competition calls for registered teams to submit a technical approach and testing application for their project by July 22, 2015, and up to 18 finalists will be notified of their selection for final testing at the testing facility in October 2015, according to the rules. Those 18 entrants will be required to bring their inverters in person to a testing facility in United States by Oct. 21, 2015, for reviews and judging.

The grand prize winner is expected to be announced in January 2016, according to Google.

The idea of the Little Box Challenge was first previewed by Google in May, but few details were initially released, according to an earlier eWEEK report.

Today's power inverters are cooler-sized boxes that are used in homes equipped with solar panels, according to Google. They convert direct current (DC) power generated by the panels to alternating current (AC) power that can be used in homes and businesses. They're big and expensive relative to the systems they serve.

Improved inverters are needed because by 2030, roughly 80 percent of all electricity will flow through the devices and other power electronic systems, making them critically important for future electricity infrastructure and use, according to Google.

Google, which is a huge consumer of electricity for its modern data centers, offices and operations around the world, is always looking for ways of conserving energy and using renewable energy sources. The company has been making large investments in wind power for its data centers since 2010. Energy production is known to have a huge impact on Earth's climate.

The company has a goal of powering its operations with 100 percent renewable energy in the future.

In January 2013, Google announced an investment of $200 million in a wind farm in western Texas near Amarillo, as the company continued to expand its involvement in the renewable energy marketplace. Google has also invested in the Spinning Spur Wind Project in Oldham County in the Texas Panhandle.

Other Google renewable energy investments include the Atlantic Wind Connection project, which will span 350 miles of the coast from New Jersey to Virginia to connect 6,000 megawatts of offshore wind turbines; and the Shepherds Flat project in Arlington, Ore., which is one of the world's largest wind farms with a capacity of 845 megawatts. Shepherds Flat began operating in October 2012.


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