From our colleagues Jere Webb and Jason Davis:
On August 6, 2010, the Assistant Secretary for Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (“EERE”), through delegated authority by the Department of Energy, issued a nationwide limited public interest waiver under Section 1605 (the “Buy American Provisions”) of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (the “Recovery Act”) for EERE-funded projects for incidental and/or ancillary solar Photovoltaic (“PV”) equipment when such equipment is used in solar installations containing either domestically manufactured PV cells or panels.
After recognizing that the Buy American Provisions do not contain a requirement with regard to the origin of components in manufactured goods used in a project, but rather that the focus of the Buy American Provisions is on whether the solar panels are manufactured in the United States, the EERE granted a public interest waiver to the Buy American Provisions for six months (ending February 6, 2011) for the purchase of the following solar PV equipment: (1) domestically-manufactured panels containing foreign-manufactured PV cells; (2) foreign-manufactured panels comprised of 100 percent domestically-manufactured PV cells; and (3) any ancillary items and equipment (including without limitation charge controllers, combiners and disconnect boxes, breakers and fuses, racks, trackers, lugs, wires, cables, and all other incidental equipment with the exception of inverters and batteries) utilized in either #1 or #2, regardless of country of origin. According to the EERE’s research on the domestic solar manufacturing industry, this waiver would allow approximately nine companies to compete for grantees’ solar PV projects (of the nine, four companies produce solar PV panels in the United States). The EERE also states that the waiver does not apply to thin-film solar PV panels.
As noted above, this waiver expires on February 6, 2011, but the waiver is unclear whether the solar PV project must be completed by the expiration date or whether the solar PV equipment (that qualifies under the waiver) simply must be purchased by the expiration date. A review of an EERE waiver, dated March 19, 2010, applying to the purchase of light emitting diode LED lighting and HVAC units (although the waiver circumstances in this instance were quite different from the solar PV equipment waiver), might suggest that the solar PV equipment waiver will apply to those circumstances where the recipient of Recovery Act funds has taken substantial steps to commit funds for the purchase of solar PV equipment, such as placing an order or executing a contract for such equipment prior to the waiver expiration date; however, the absence of similar detail in the solar PV equipment waiver leaves quite a bit of uncertainty. Hopefully the EERE will issue future guidance to clarify the expiration date terms.
The complete solar PV equipment waiver is expected to be posted soon to the EERE’s website at http://www1.eere.energy.gov/recovery/buy_american_provision.html.