3M, the company behind Post-it among many other products, has teamed up with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) to rev up the development of its low cost thin film solar energy and concentrating solar energy technologies. The $7.33 million partnership, which also includes biofuels technology development, is the second big renewable energy announcement by 3M this week.
The company has also announced that will contribute its high efficiency ceramic-fiber and aluminum cables to the ambitious Desertec solar energy project, which envisions a network of solar power plants in Africa supplying renewable energy to Europe. On top of that, 3M execs had some nice things to say about the importance of having a federal government platform to help take the company’s technology to market sooner rather than later. Hey, does that mean corporate giant 3M is for – gasp – socialism?
3M and the U.S. Government
Mike Roman, the VP of the 3M Renewable Energy Division, has made it clear that U.S. government resources will play a big role in getting the company’s new solar technology out of the lab and into consumers’ hands. In a recent press release Rogers stated, “3M is excited for the opportunity to tap into NREL’s expertise and understanding of a variety of solar modules…Also, NREL has pilot plant capabilities, which allow valuable application testing…” The part about the pilot plant is the money quote. Basically it means that private companies can share a collective, taxpayer funded resource to get beneficial technology into the market more quickly and efficiently. The 3M partnership is not unique, by the way. EPA has just started a renewable energy partnership with Tulane University, which provides for developing floating test facilities that companies can use to test and develop new turbines for hydrokinetic energy.
Green Jobs and – Gasp! – Socialism
NREL has also partnered with another global industry leader from the midwestern Rust Belt, Alcoa. The federal lab is hosting a test of Alcoa’s new concentrating solar power technology based on low cost sheet aluminum (it’s Alcoa, after all). The company’s focus on affordability has the potential to generate new green jobs by leveraging the Rust Belt’s existing infrastructure to help bring costs down. Another example of the federal government-business-green jobs connection is Stirling Energy, which has been testing its SunCatcher concentrating solar technology at Sandia National Laboratories in partnership with NREL. The company specifically designed its units to take advantage of existing expertise in the U.S. automotive industry, in order to create a more affordable product and bring more green jobs to the Rust Belt to boot. Errr…remind me, what is socialism?
Image: 3M Post-Its by Viernest on flickr.com.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.