The military authorization law signed by President Obama on Friday contains a little-noticed “Buy American” provision for the Defense Department purchases of solar panels — a provision that is likely to dismay Chinese officials as President Hu Jintao prepares to visit the United States next week.
The new Military authorization law contains a Buy American (generally speaking) clause, requiring that any solar panels purchased by the military, and the military is quite the purchaser of solar panels, be purchased from US companies.
Now to be more detailed, it's not purely a Buy American clause, though it's effectively that. There's a work-around that more or less amount to that, though, in that it restricts purchasing from China while staying compliance with WTO rules:
Two prominent trade lawyers said in e-mails over the weekend that the law’s language meant that in practice, the Defense Department must buy solar panels from any country that signs the W.T.O.’s side agreement on government procurement. Earlier American trade laws require compliance with that agreement.
Virtually all industrialized countries have signed the side agreement, which requires free trade in government purchases. China vowed to sign it as soon as possible when it joined the W.T.O. in November 2001, but still has not done so.
Inland Chinese provinces and cities have strongly lobbied Beijing not to sign the agreement because they want to retain the legal right to continue steering government contracts to local companies, said a trade policy adviser to the Chinese government who insisted on anonymity because of the political sensitivity of the issue.
It's nice to see the Obama administration taking a more determined stance against China's one-sided trade practices in the realm of renewable energy. For one reason, these new technologies need to be nurtured in a fair and safe environment if the US intends to be competitive in them in the long run. And another reason, it's high time China be called out on its own protectionist crap with a stern school-marmish ruler across the knuckles.
The solar panel provision in the defense appropriations law comes as President Obama has ordered a broad investigation into whether Chinese export subsidies, local content requirements and other rules have violated W.T.O. rules. As a result of the investigation, the United States started a W.T.O. case on Dec. 22 against what it said were Chinese wind turbine manufacturing subsidies.
American trade officials said then that they were still examining other Chinese clean-energy subsidy policies to decide whether to file additional W.T.O. cases.
Michigan one of the fastest growing producers of solar cells i America, an industry growing even faster in the state than the production of wind turbine parts...which also seems like it's going to have some protections soon.
This new Buy American law is going to directly benefit the manufacturing states.
Along the same topic...Hey look! Ford is installing a massive 500 kw solar array into one of its Michigan automobile plants. It's estimated that it will save the company 116 grand.
When the plant is inactive, such as holidays, the collected solar energy will go into the energy storage system for later use, providing power during periods of insufficient or inconsistent sunlight, says Ford. In addition, the energy storage system will be able to recharge from the grid during off-peak hours when energy is available at a lower cost.
The combined systems are expected to save an estimated $160,000 per year in energy costs. Installation of the system begins later this year.