President Barack Obama on Friday announced an initiative to boost adoption of renewable energy, including commitments from big box retailers like Wal-Mart to double the number of stores with solar installations.
Buried in the 11-page press release issued by the White House was Google’s statement that it would offer a $1 million prize for the development of a cheap and small solar inverter.
Solar inverters convert the electricity generated by photovoltaic panels from direct current to alternating current so it can be used by your iPhone, refrigerator, electric car motor and just about every device powered by electrons.
While the price of solar panels has plunged about 75 percent in recent years, inverters remain big, bulky and expense and are one of the priciest pieces of a photovoltaic system.
“Roughly 80 percent of all electricity will flow through inverters and other power electronic systems by 2030, making them critically important for future electricity infrastructure and use,” Google said in a statement announcing The Little Box Challenge. “We want to shrink inverters down significantly, which will dramatically reduce costs for these systems while making them more efficient. This is no mean feat, and there will be obstacles to overcome. But the winner of this prize has the potential to make a significant impact on the future of electricity.”