Buy American Solar Amendment Passes House And Senate

All the solar equipment the US Department of Defense (DOD) buys will be Made in America, now that the Buy American Solar Amendment has passed both the House and Senate.

The amendment closes a loophole in the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act and requires all solar PV devices that supply power to DOD property and facilities is made in the US.

The Department of Defense is required to comply with the Buy American Act and purchase American-made goods, including solar panels. In practice, however, those requirements often don’t apply to solar projects at military facilities because third-party producers procure, install and maintain solar panels, financed by long-term energy contracts with the DOD. 

Since the DOD buys the power, but not necessarily the solar panels, the military could be purchasing solar electricity from  producers outside the US. 

"The Department of Defense is a leader on utilizing solar power- not only for environmental reasons, but for national security reasons by making its facilities less dependent on outside power sources," says Senator Tom Udall (D-NM) who sponsored the Amendment. "We are closing this loophole so that the Department of Defense always buys American when it funds solar projects for its energy security. China does not use U.S. solar panels at its military bases, so why should we use theirs at ours?"

"When it comes to charging up the American manufacturing sector and slashing our dependence on sources of foreign power, U.S. defense facilities should be using American-made solar panels in their clean energy initiatives without exception," says Senator Chuck Schumer (D-NY), who also sponsored the Amendment. "The ‘Buy American’ requirement could not have been clearer, and I’m thrilled that the Senate has closed the loophole that allows foreign solar panel manufacturers to unfairly compete their way into our defense facilities."

The amendment is supported by the U.S. Army and solar manufacturers with significant U.S. operations, including Sharp Electronics, Schott North America, Sanyo North America, Solar World Industries America, Suniva, Konarka Technologies, Kyocera Solar, and United Solar Ovonic. 

Despite the tough economic climate, more than 20 new U.S. solar manufacturing facilities have begun operations in 2010 and 2011. The U.S. solar industry employs more than 100,000 Americans, and is one of the fastest growing sectors in the economy.

Other countries that provide equal access to their government procurement markets also qualify under Buy American, but large solar producers such as China and Malaysia do not qualify.

The House-passed National Defense Authorization Act (H.R. 1540) includes a provision to close the loophole.

In the Senate, the amendment was sponsored by Sens. Tom Udall (D-NM) and Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and co-sponsored by Sens. Jeff Bingaman (D-NM), Sherrod Brown (D-OH), Tom Harkin (D-IO), Joe Manchin (D-WV), Bernie Sanders (I-VT.) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI).

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