The company has prototyped a compact camera-sized 2kW power inverter that is easy to manufacture at a competitive cost
Rueil-Malmaison (France), April 6, 2016 – Schneider Electric, the global specialist in energy management and automation, has won second place in the Little Box Challenge, a global competition organized by Google and IEEE¹ to design and build a 10-times smaller inverter, the essential box that takes current from energy devices such as solar panels and batteries and turns it into alternating current for use in homes and businesses. Competitors were asked to work out how to shrink a high-efficiency 2kW inverter down from picnic cooler-size to tablet-size (40 cubic inches).
Inverters are increasingly important to the economy and people’s well-being, given the rapid growth in photovoltaic systems, batteries and other power sources. Making inverters smaller and cheaper to produce and install will lead to more solar-powered homes and more efficient distribution grids, while helping bring electricity to remote areas.
DC to AC inverters are at the core of many Schneider Electric products promoting power density and energy efficiency, such as uninterruptible power sources (UPSs), solar inverters and drives. Power conversion is one of the company’s strategic technology expertise. Skills in this area are crucial for Schneider Electric to serve its key markets, ranging from buildings and datacenters to utilities and infrastructure and industries.
To build a super-compact prototype, Schneider Electric brought together a global team of technology and IT experts, including members of its Edison program². Their approach was industrial, favoring robustness and efficiency over size, with the objective of creating a prototype that would be easy to manufacture at a competitive cost. After a full year of research, the company submitted its prototype in July 2015, while filing four patents. The inverter submitted by Schneider Electric had the size of a compact camera with a volume of only 20.8 cubic inches (10cm x 8.5cm x 4cm), almost twice the challenge requirement.
“By taking part in this competition and winning second place, Schneider Electric has demonstrated its world-class technological expertise, along with its ability to drive the kind of cross-team collaboration that produces disruptive innovation,” said Prith Banerjee, Chief Technology Officer and Executive Vice President at Schneider Electric. “With this proof of concept, we’ll now be working on making it real to our customers, helping them accelerate onto the new world of energy.”
¹ Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers
² The Group’s internal program for promoting technical expertise
About Schneider Electric
Schneider Electric is the global specialist in energy management and automation. With revenues of ~€27 billion in FY2015, our 160,000+ employees serve customers in over 100 countries, helping them to manage their energy and process in ways that are safe, reliable, efficient and sustainable. From the simplest of switches to complex operational systems, our technology, software and services improve the way our customers manage and automate their operations. Our connected technologies reshape industries, transform cities and enrich lives. At Schneider Electric, we call this Life Is On.
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A prototype of the inverter developed by Schneider Electric for the Little Box Challenge