3M Gets $4.4M for Solar Technology

The funding is part of a program focused on improving manufacturing efficiencies and reducing costs in the U.S. solar industry.

Maplewood-based 3M Company will receive $4.4 million from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to develop a solar technology project, the DOE announced on Friday.

The grant is part of the agency's “SunShot initiative”-a $20.3 million investment program for projects aimed at making solar energy more affordable.

The agency said that award recipients are pursuing technology improvements that will improve solar cell efficiency, reduce production costs, and strengthen the country's photovoltaic (PV) industry.

3M will use the grant to develop and commercialize a flexible and highly transparent topsheet for solar panels, enabling commercialization of flexible PV modules found in these panels.

Other recipients include North Lexington, Massachusetts-based 1366 Technologies, Inc. ($3 million); Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania-based PPG Industries, Inc. ($3.1 million); Gloucester, Massachusetts-based Varian Semiconductor Equipment Associates, Inc. ($4.8 million); and Plainview, New York- based Veeco Instruments, Inc. ($4.8 million).

The DOE said the initiative includes support for companies across the solar energy supply chain, including material and tool suppliers and companies developing technologies that can be adopted directly into current manufacturing processes.

3M is among Minnesota's five-largest companies based on revenue, which totaled $26.7 billion in 2010. It was recently named the third-most innovative company by consulting firm Booz & Company-trailing only Apple and Google.