The latest edition of the "Buy America" act signed into law by President Obama requires that all solar devices purchased by the military mostly be produced in the United States. This edition of the law is not an act itself but rather a provision tacked onto the $725 billion defense appropriations bill designed to make the purchase of solar technology comply with the original 1933 Buy American Act. That act requires the government to prefer US-made products.
Now, whether a country that spends more on its military than the other fourteen highest countries combined really needs another $725 billion or not is a different debate. But, regardless of if you see the "Buy America" provision as a silver lining or a good part of an important bill, it still has positives. The main positive is forwarding American efforts to expand alternative energy. Within that, though, is the most important aspect - community. By purchasing photovoltaics from American companies, the government can help make alternative energy production an important part of a local community's economy.
The Oregonian recently ran an article about how the "Buy America" provision will positively impact Oregon. Grape Solar in Eugene, Oregon already sold $500,000 worth of solar panels to the military. SolarWorld, a Germany company with production plants in Hillsboro, Oregon that employ 1,000 people, expects an increase in business now that they no longer have to compete with Chinese companies.
The provision even closed an old "Buy American" loophole. Though the government was required to preference American companies in accordance to the Buy American Act, private companies contracted by the U.S. Government were not. With the new provision, that is no longer the case.
Encouraging domestic solar production is an important step in furthering the United States' alternative energy capacity. Increased domestic competition has great potential to spur important innovation. What do you think of the "Buy America" provision? Are you glad the government is buying American? Should we not focus on where the panels come from but instead focus on making a better panel? Share your thoughts below...
UPDATE: This 2009 story from GreenBiz details how the "Buy America Act" can make things a lot more difficult than you'd think, specifically in the green energy industry. Apparently there are countless horror stories of communities not getting a more efficient heating system or green technology installed because of the red tape encompassing the "Buy America Act". It is definitely something to think about. Every law has its upsides and downsides, but it is interesting to hear about so many negatives specific to green technology. What do you think? Buy America provision: good or bad?