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Clean Power 3M employee low cost solar discount

Published on November 14th, 2014 | by Tina Casey


Duct Tape Giant’s Low Cost Solar Stealth Attack

November 14th, 2014 by  

The Koch brothers and other fossil industry stakeholders have been gearing up for yet another massive fight over the federal tax credit for wind energy, but as the great Satchel Paige famously remarked, “Don’t look back. Something might be gaining on you.” That something would be distributed, low cost solar power, which is growing by leaps and bounds. Case in point: just last night, major duct tape purveyor 3M announced an exponential expansion of its ambitious employee discount solar program, having stimulated “robust” interest in just the first few weeks.

3M employee low cost solar discount

Screenshot, cropped, courtesy of 3M.

The 3M Employee Low Cost Solar Program

The 3M employee low cost solar program was launched on October 22 as part of the Solar Community Initiative organized by the World Wildlife Fund in partnership with Geostellar and other private sector collaborators.

This low cost solar program really gilds the discount lily. First off, the program offers a power purchase agreement through Geostellar, under which the property owner pays no money up front for the solar installation. The cost of the solar panels is paid off incrementally as the property owner pays for the electricity they generate. That’s a savings right there, since the whole point of a power purchase agreement is to obtain solar-generated electricity at a lower rate.

On top of that, the 3M deal involves a bulk rate purchasing advantage, which provides employees a discount on the photovoltaic system ranging from 25 to 35 percent. The result is an average savings of 30 percent off their utility bills for homeowners, compared to individual purchasing at the going rate.


According to the company, response to the offer among the 40,000 3M workers in the U.S. and Canada has been “robust:”

So far, the program has been met with excitement at 3M. In just three weeks, more than 1,000 employees have done initial assessments for solar, and about a dozen have sealed the deal to have solar installed in their homes.

Twelve new solar customers in the bag might sound like small potatoes, but 3M and Geostellar appear confident that the program is off to a healthy start, based on the number of employees that have done the initial assessment.

The solar discount expansion that 3M announced last night basically recruits those aforementioned 40,000 employees to tell all of their friends and family members about the program (the assessment process is the same, you just need the promo code to obtain the discount).

Along with 3M, Cisco Systems and Kimberly-Clark are also in on the goal of 1,000 participants. That represents just one percent of the combined North American workforce of 100,000 employees, but the raw numbers aren’t the only factor. Given the widespread operations of the three companies, another goal of the initiative is to help mainstream distributed solar energy generation across all 50 states and Canada.

The 3M Sustainability Track Record

Considering some of the feedback we got about Ford’s micro wind turbines yesterday, now might be a good time to talk about greenwashing. If you think the 3M low cost solar program belongs in the greenwashing category, please drop us a note in the comment thread.

In the meantime, let’s note that 3M’s interest in clean tech is a bit more expansive than offering an employee discount on financing. The company is a longtime partner with the National Renewable Energy Laboratory on EV battery R&D, and earlier this year it announced a new collaboration with the lab on thin film and concentrating solar technology as well as next-generation biofuels. 3M Germany has also been an early supporter of the ambitious Desertec solar initiative.

Earlier this year, in the context of a new NASCAR initiative for EV charging (3M is all about NASCAR), we also noted that 3M was one of the original private sector partners that launched President Obama’s ambitious Workplace Charging Challenge. That’s part of the Administration’s EV Everywhere initiative, which aims at making EVs just as convenient and affordable as gasmobiles.

Americans For Prosperity Vs. The Wind Tax Credit

Before we close, let’s get back to those Koch brothers and the wind tax credit. For those of you new to the topic, the federal production tax credit for wind energy is a relatively new development. It was introduced in 1993 in support of the then-nascent U.S. wind energy industry.

Bipartisan support for the energy sector has been a mainstay of U.S. economic growth for generations (free market, much?), and wind energy was no exception. The wind tax credit was routinely extended on a bipartisan basis for many years.

That changed recently, when technological improvements and new investor interest kicked the wind industry into high gear. According to a new analysis by the American Wind Energy Association, the U.S. — not China, as some apparently assume — has been leading the world in total kilowatt hours delivered since 2008.

That’s not even tapping into the U.S. vast offshore wind energy resources. Rope that in and you’re talking about 35 percent of US electricity demand by 2050, so no wonder fossil stakeholders are getting the shakes.

The latest salvo was fired earlier this week by the Koch-funded lobbying group Americans for Prosperity, in the form of a letter to Congress complaining that “taxpayers are tired of being asked to indefinitely fund corporate welfare for the Obama Administration’s favored industries.”

AFP’s press materials further noted that the organization would announce “significant grassroots action on this issue later in the week,” but it looks like 3M and Ford are among those already thumbing their noses at the effort.

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About the Author

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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

  • Kelly Hockman

    For anyone interested in participating in this program, simply go to Geostellar’s Web Site and enter the 3m promo code. You’ll be able to take advantage of their discount pricing. It works for both cash purchases and financing. I am a Solar Guide at Geostellar and it is a great company with great leadership. I would be more than happy to help those wanting to going solar.

    • jeffhre

      Where is “the 3m promo code” found?

      • Kelly Hockman

        after you enter your address at Geostellar, you’re prompted for a promo code. Simply put “3m” in the promo code box.

  • bussdriver78

    3M also makes materials for wind generators and glass coatings for energy saving glass. It’s in their interests to promote stuff; probably they have products in the solar space as well they will promote too.

  • mk1313

    Yet another argument on why Corporations are not people and why money isn’t freedom of speech. Whomever that judge was who bought the crap should be buried in manure!

  • Mike

    3M also pioneered the Window Film industry which is another great clean technology helping to reduce commercial and residential energy consumption.

    Regardless, it’s great to see large companies getting progressive with sustainable energy.

  • Mickey Askins

    Americans for Prosperity is a subversive organization that does not have the best interest of the poor and middle class, they are the enemy.

    • Mike333

      They’re EcoTerrorists and Economic Terrorists.
      Because they don’t want an environment, and they don’t want JOBS, Solar and Wind jobs, you know like they have in Germany, now powered 20% by Solar.

      • Mike333

        Funny if you ever see a wind map of the US, the only states that don’t have wind jobs are the Southern states.

        • Bob_Wallace

          That may change. There’s a new wind map based on resources at 96 to 100 meters up rather than the 80 meter maps which don’t show a lot of wind in the SE.

          Plus there’s lots of offshore wind ready for the plucking.

          Additionally, at least three SE states are purchasing/getting ready to purchase wind-electricity from Oklahoma. Get some cheap wind on their grids and people are going to start asking why it isn’t being generated locally rather than sending the money out of states and employing people in a different state.

          • sault

            Good map, but I’m suspicious of how some wind resource ratings mysteriously stop at state borders. For instance, Missouri, North Carolina and a few others might have substantially more wind potential than the map shows. Western Colorado is also strangely without data even though Southern Wyoming is rich with wind power potential.

            And I remember seeing that thousands of offshore turbines in the Gulf of Mexico could lower hurricane damage a great deal. I wonder if there is a way for the insurance companies to twist the arms of the teabagger politicians in charge of all those former Confederate states and force them to insall the turbines.

          • eveee

            Those two lone rectangles in Arkansas also catch the eye. Its not a complete map, for sure. Also stops at the NY, PA border. The 96m map is less complete than the 50m map, which has no discontinuities. It will probably fill out as complete data becomes available.

            Check out the great spot in Southeastern Wyoming. Tops the chart for winds except offshore.



    • Matthew

      Mickey, they don’t care about anyone actually. At the end they only care about the Chaulk brothers. We will see, the Chaulk brothers are our version of Hitler.

  • Marion Meads

    Will friends in Facebook count? Anyone here employee of 3M? I want to be your friend!

    • Offgridman

      You don’t have solar yet? Perhaps Solar City could help you if you don’t have the investment money.

      • Marion Meads

        I already have. Want to install more to cover my commute or use more for processing my crops. Sunrun has better deal than Solar City. But not using either. Wanted to see the real numbers from the 3M for comparison. I might get on along with them for bulk buying the system and contract out with our local installer for the installation (they charge $0.75/Watt for the install).

        • Offgridman

          If the 3M deal will let you get the reduced price on the purchase without following through with their PPA that would be helpful, but it might be a package deal.
          Good luck and congrats on getting yourself even further separated from the claws of the utilities.

          • David Levine

            you can do loan, lease or ppa with the deal

          • David Levine

            or cash

          • Offgridman

            Thanks for the info, the article mentioned the loan, lease, or PPA aspects, but didn’t make the cash option obvious.
            From her comments I think Ms Meads is interested in connecting to this deal through someone that can access the 3M discounts on hardware costs, but then using a local installer for the reduced costs. From previous conversations I think that she is able to pay cash, so this may work out for her.
            Suggesting Solar City, was an attempt at sarcasm from previous conversations, because it is pretty clear that she would never use them due to personal bias.
            Thanks again, have a great day.

          • David Levine

            We’ve actually had some DIY purchases of hardware only. Happy to oblige. And thanks for clarifying the sarcasm 🙂

          • Offgridman

            And thank you for the clarification on accessing this deal. I am planning on adding some more panels to my offgrid system with how inexpensive they have become since I did the original setup. Definitely curious about what this might do for pricing and delivery costs for myself too.

          • Marion Meads

            My comments with SolarCity has been very effective. They are now offering options for financed purchase at reasonable APR, around 3.99%-5.99% and at a lot lower system price per Watt compared to when they first talked to me. Their tactics before is to glorify the advantage of their PPA or lease agreement by offering an insane purchase price and horrible APR. Their main argument was that you tremendously saved a lot more money because they assume that utilities will do nothing as the solar installers eat their lunch, and that the utilities will jack up the price every year at 15% rate for the next 30 years while they only escalate their leased rates at 3%. The savings was therefore a big lie and very misleading. So I posted everywhere I can about such unrealistic assumptions and all the disadvantages of leasing or PPA compared to outright buying.

            And lately, with the competitions from SunRun and local installers, Solar City was forced to lower their prices. So I claim success that their offering is now within sanity to move the solar energy further. But of course, this is not without casualty. Those who have been suckered into signing with the lease agreement a couple of years back and earlier would be banging their heads living in regret when they will be paying more compared to the current terms of new lease contracts. The electricity rate did not increase 15% every year for the last 5 years as assumed by Solar City while their lease escalated 3% year over year.

          • Offgridman

            I don’t know what the difference was, whether it was due to contacting different sales people, the questions asked, or something else.
            However as I explained last month when I contacted Solar City and told them that there was no interest in a PPA or zero down lease they were very open about the various options for purchasing or financing a solar system.
            A lot of the difference seems to be that in just like dealing with the bank about a loan if you have some of your own money to put in as collateral then the less expensive options in the way of interest rates and etc come into play.
            However it works out better for you, good fortune with your venture.

    • Offgridman

      You may want to check out new comment by Kelly Hockman on this subject.
      It tells you how to take advantage of the 3M pricing without having to go through anyone else.

  • Adrian

    “Taxpayers are tired of being asked to indefinitely fund corporate welfare”

    Certainly we are. Can we please end the Clean Water Act exemptions for mountaintop removal mining and hydraulic fracturing? And maybe start properly enforcing the CWA and the Clean Air Act on the Koch Brothers Petroleum Coke operations in and around Chicago? http://www.midwestenergynews.com/2014/10/16/murky-waters-chicagoans-worry-petcoke-moving-to-barges/

    • Mike333

      Funny oil and coal subsidies are fine for some reason.
      Just not energy sources that don’t pollute your water.

  • Vensonata

    “Great idea” I thought, “PV duct tape!” Then I read the article, not quite so exciting. But hey, take the idea 3m, and run with it. Suburban revolution. A few rolls of duct tape stuck on your siding or your roof and away you go.

    • Doug Cutler

      I’m with you. Solar PV duct tape plastered all over an electric pick-up truck.

    • Matthew

      Can you margined if hillbillies started generating their own free electricity with solar duct tape!!!! They would shoot ant Chaulk trying to take it away from them!

  • Matt

    Wait the Americans for “Koch” Prosperity didn’t ask that the feds stop funding coal, oil, and nukes? How can these “leaders” of libertarian thought and “free” market defenders no be screaming to stop the flow of tax payers money to support these old industries that have been on the government tee for 100 years.

    • Mike333

      You cracked the code.
      They’re just as much for the “free market” as ATT and Verizon.
      They want their monopoly positions PROTECTED by the Republican Congress they paid for.

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