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Google offers $1m prize to shrink inverters

UNITED STATES: Google has launched a $1 million competition under which entrants are challenged to create a new compact inverter for use with wind turbines, among other things.

The tech company is looking to shrink a "picnic-cooler-sized device" down to the size of a small laptop – roughly a tenth of the current size. The Little Green Box competition is for the creation of a kilowatt-scale inverter with a power density of 50W per cubic inch.

Google said that the device could be used to help to create low-cost microgrids in remote parts of the world. While the inverter is of sub-MW scale, an advancement in the technology may be applicable to a larger scale.

Google has launched itself headlong into renewable energy, buying stakes in a number of wind projects. To date, Google has holdings in 16 renewable energy developments, including seven wind projects, as it looks to reduce its carbon emissions, particularly from its energy-intensive data centres.

These projects accounted for 22% of the company's total energy consumption in 2012. Along with green power bought from the grid, 34% of its power came from renewable sources.

The nameplate capacity of Google's renewable energy projects is now more than 2GW as it pushes towards its goal of using 100% green energy by an unspecified date.

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