Solar Panels: Pentagon Must Buy American

A new military appropriations bill signed by President Barack Obama on Friday will require the Defense Department to purchase solar panels exclusively from the United States.

The “Buy American” provision may add to the list of growing tensions with China, which is the world’s largest exporter of green energy materials.

U.S. leaders believe that China unfairly subsidizes its clean energy sector, taking business away from the American solar and wind industries. The Obama administation has ordered an investigation into the matter and brought the issue before the World Trade Organization on Dec. 22.

The solar panel provision passed the House and Senate during the tail-end of the lame-duck session of Congress before the holiday break, and was carefully written to agree with WTO rules so that China will have less of a chance of getting it overturned, the New York Times reports.

The measure also imposes a Buy American mandate on other green technologies such as “energy savings performance contracts, utility service contracts, land leases, and private housing contracts.”

Despite China’s criticism of such stipulations in the past, the nation required in the spring of 2009 that the entirety of its $600 billion economic stimulus be spent within China.

The new rule comes as Chinese President Hu Jintao prepares for a visit to the U.S. next week.

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