Over the past few years, I've documented the efforts of big U.S. industrial conglomerates like General Electric
GE is focusing its energies on thin-film photovoltaics, and might eventually give First Solar
Another company that I recently spotted in the solar space is 3M
In February, 3M announced the creation of a new renewable energy division. This will house the firm's efforts in solar, wind, and other alternatives. In the solar area, 3M has products that address each flavor of solar, from mirror-based concentrating solar power to thin-film and crystalline silicon PV.
More recently, 3M signed a research agreement with NREL, the Department of Energy's renewable energy lab. That collaboration is going to be focusing on things like moisture barrier films for CIGS thin-film modules and reflective coatings for CSP mirrors. Another news item, which doesn't appear to have made it into an English press release, is that 3M joined the Desertec Industrial Initiative that First Solar, Siemens, and other heavyweights are a part of. You can read more about that initiative right here.
3M looks like it has a decent opportunity set in the solar space. Importantly, the company should be able to supply whoever wins the brutal battle for module market share. Whether these sales can really move the needle for such a huge firm, though, remains to be seen.