Google Puts Up $1 Million Little Box Challenge For Solar Inverter Innovation As Obama Administration Pushes Renewable Energy

Google is kind of involved in everything, and the company is tackling clean energy with gusto, too. In conjunction with a White House push for renewable energy and agreements from some 300 organizations to pursue clean energy options that includes 1 billion square feet of buildings in the U.S. (and a $2 billion investment in making federal buildings more energy efficient), Google announced that it’s created the Little Box Challenge to foster clean energy innovation.

Google Little Box Challenge

Specifically, the company will pony up $1 million for whoever comes up with the best (that is, smallest, cheapest, and most effective) power inverter.

Shrinking the size and cost of power inverters will mean that solar installations around the world will be smaller, cost less, and be more efficient--and that’s actually a huge deal. For anyone who’s looked into powering their homes with solar panels, it’s apparent that the investment is large and the payoff middling. Installations are expensive, they don’t necessarily produce as much juice as one might hope (and most of us are power-hungry users), and the ROI takes a very long time.

white house solar panels
Solar panels on the roof of the White House

Even with subsidies, it’s not always a financially lucrative thing to do. However, if a better inverter can allow the price to drop, there could be a tipping point for more consumer adoption.

More details about the Little Box Challenge are forthcoming, but it’s clear that Google is high on clean energy. “We have a goal of powering our operations with 100% renewable energy, and to that end have contracted over a gigawatt of wind energy for our data centers,” reads a Google+ post. “Beyond powering our own operations, we’ve also committed over $1 billion to 16 renewable energy projects around the world.”