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Pentagon Can’t Buy Chinese Solar Panels

Pentagon Can’t Buy Chinese Solar Panels

A provision in a military authorization law signed recently by President Obama prohibits the Defense Department from buying Chinese-made solar panels. Renewable energy is particularly attractive to the U.S. military because shipping fuel to remote bases around the world is very expensive.

“We’ve had a lot of money taken out of this country and invested in other places around the world, particularly China, and particularly in alternative energies. For them to be producing alternative energy, that’s great, but we need to do it ourselves, and as much of it as possible,” said Democrat Maurice Hinchey from New York. (Source: New York Times)

Solar panel producers in China are subsidized, so the cost of their panels has dropped below those made in the United States, and Chinese solar panels are big business in the U.S. due to their lower prices. Recently a Massachusetts solar energy company with 800 employees closed, due to the solar panel market being flooded with cheaper Chinese panels.

“Solar manufacturers in China have received considerable government and financial support and, together with their low manufacturing costs, have become price leaders within the industry. While the United States and other western industrial economies are beneficiaries of rapidly declining installation costs of solar energy, we expect the United States will continue to be at a disadvantage from a manufacturing standpoint,” said Evergreen’s CEO Michael El-Hillow. (Source: CNET)

Last year Chinese solar firms shipped solar panels worth about $6.6 billion to the United States. Manufacturers in China hold 43 percent of the global photo-voltaic panel market. (Source: Bloomberg.com) Solar panel manufacturing is not the only way Chinese companies are influencing the global market. One of their larger solar panel manufacturers opened a solar power plant in Arizona recently which generates 30 megawatts of electricity.

Since Congress passed a law requiring the Defense Department to buy American-made solar panels, is there any ethical dilemma for American consumers? If these consumers inform themselves about the international trade context, and how one major competitor has driven their prices down with government subsidies, should they be concerned enough to consider also only buying solar technology manufactured in their own countries? Would you be willing to pay a foreign company for your power?

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Read more: Conscious Consumer, Do Good, Materials & Architecture, News & Issues, , , ,

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99 comments

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2:22AM PDT on Jul 1, 2011

funny to read opinions that support globalization if it benefits UScompanies – damn it, if it goes the other way round …

Well. Buy local. Support national companies. (¿¿ e.g. Tommy Hilfiger??)
Industry may take every benefit from Globalization and Consumers have to be excluded from the same?

4:24PM PDT on Jun 29, 2011

No pentagon waste there. Look no further...

12:33PM PDT on Jun 29, 2011

President Obama prohibits the Defense Department from buying Chinese-made solar panels.

Three cheers to President Obama.. spending really should begin at home..

4:48PM PST on Feb 28, 2011

I love the idea that the biggest buyer by far in the US is starting to buy American.

4:38PM PST on Feb 28, 2011

Thank you

7:21AM PST on Feb 3, 2011

invest more in solar panels and solar tech in general!

12:05AM PST on Jan 25, 2011

it's crazy to buy energy from so far away! reducing carbon footsteps are all about keeping it local. all countries should subidize their own local renewable energy sources, surely thats what we pay taxes for! keep it on our doorstops!

10:57PM PST on Jan 21, 2011

VERY GOOD MOVE. WE "SHOULD" SUPPORT AMERICAN MANUFACTURERS!!!

10:57PM PST on Jan 19, 2011

Good decisision from pentagon. China seems to be country where renewable energy is very much supported. But try to keep workplaces in U.S. by supporting local manufacturers.And let the rest of the world to do same way. Let us in the Europe be with out GM maze. I quess that is quite big issue at the WTO. Argue between EU and U.S.

5:36AM PST on Jan 18, 2011

It is important that everybody can afford solar power. The US government should subsidize US manufactured panels to match the price of the panels from China. They could do that with a fraction of their military budget.

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