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er Power Inverter: the Google Littlebox Challenge — Text Version

Below is the text version for the Designing a Smaller Power Inverter: the Google Littlebox Challenge video.

Any kind of equipment that uses direct current output, we need this device, an inverter, that converts that direct current output to alternating current output that can be useful for the grid.

The Google Little Box Challenge was kind of an idea that Google had to try to drive innovation to make a smaller power inverter.

A typical solar inverter for a home today is roughly the size of a picnic cooler. And so the idea was, if it takes a device that's the size of a picnic cooler, can we do the same function with a device that's much smaller. What's really limiting us from making that device smaller?

We wanted to make this accessible to any team. The contest was open to the world. And IEEE and Google would review all those applications, try to narrow it down to the best 18, and then those 18 teams came to NREL. And that's really where the bulk of our work started, was taking those 18 inverters at the ESIF and having an experimental setup that we could evaluate all of those in the exact same conditions, and do that in a fairly efficient way.

And that was where a lot of NREL's background in grid integration, and looking at standards and how different solar inverters should operate, really came to bear. We were able to provide some of our expertise and our experience working with other commercial inverter vendors to test these inverters in a way that demonstrates all of their capabilities and that showed whether or not they met all of the requirements for the contest.

What we saw with this challenge was that a lot of the teams were able to do that, to add all of these innovations in the thermal systems, in miniaturization, in packaging all these things together. But they were able to do all of those things for a very similar cost as what inverters take today.

Google put up a nice prize for someone to try to innovate around this, but what really comes out of it is that all of these ideas that the different teams came up with are now in the public domain, and everyone can look at what they came up with and learn from that.