I Come To Praise The Legend of Korra On Salon: You Gotta Deal With It, Television!

[True story, fandom! Please enjoy my brainy Salon interview with the creators of The Legend of Korra with the full knowledge that, days after I publicly declared its female role model the most powerful on television, Nickelodeon summarily pulled that same female role model off of television. For her own good, I am told. More later.]

“I’m the Avatar and you gotta deal with it!” the toddling superheroine Korra, still in diapers, blasts in the very first episode of Nickelodeon’s surprisingly intelligent cartoon “The Legend of Korra.”

Like Aang from “Avatar: The Last Airbender,” The Legend of Korra’s transformative prequel series, the athletic, stubborn Korra is an elemental demigod who can harness, or “bend,” the energies of earth, air, water and fire to bring her planet’s warring natural and human worlds into balance. (Sometimes whether they like it or not.) As such, the singular Korra, voiced by Janet Varney, also may be one of the toughest female characters currently on TV.

“I am certainly proud to add Korra to the pantheon of TV characters, which is perpetually sorely lacking in multifaceted female characters who aren’t sidekicks, subordinates or mere trophies for male characters,” writer Bryan Konietzko said in an interview.

In a TV landscape filled with banal horrorcore that airs our darkest destructive impulses rather than our brightest aspirations, “The Legend of Korra“ lastingly and accessibly critiques power, gender, extinction, spirit and more — all wrapped up in a kinetic ‘toon as lyrical and expansive as anything dreamt up by Hayao Miyazaki or George Lucas, on a network known mostly for its so-called children’s programming, in a format once considered too infantile for minds of consequence.

Older and more mature than the still fiercely smart “Avatar: The Last Airbender,“ ”The Legend of Korra” is a surreal, lovely sequel. I spoke to co-creators Konietzko and Michael Dante DiMartino about the critical bias against animation, the hyperviolent escapism of “Game of Thrones” and why Korra appeals to adults as well as kids.


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How Repurposed EV Batteries Can Make Home Solar Storage More Affordable

Lithium-ion batteries have led the mobile digital revolution, not to mention the electric vehicle boom, but they’re just more dead weight without proper recycling. Giving them productive life after death has been an ongoing research concern, especially for the burgeoning electric vehicle market, and the data is looking up.

Norman Mineta‘s National Transit Research Consortium (MNTRA) teamed up with Michigan’s Department of Transportation and Sybesma Electronics to crunch that data and found lithium-ion batteries to be “an efficient energy storage mechanism” whose “use in vehicles is increasing to support electrification to meet increasing average mileage and decreasing greenhouse gas emission standards.” Their joint report — Remanufacturing, Repurposing, and Recycling of Post-Vehicle-Application Use of Lithium-Ion Batteries ( — uses a bit more jargon than recycling, but its overall point is rather clear.

“Remanufacturing is profitable,” it concluded, but not in isolation.


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Nissan’s Free LEAF Charging Plan Aims to Accelerate EV Adoption

Electric vehicles, and their proliferating charging stations, are fast becoming our new transportation normal. And Nissan just made it a bit cheaper for Leaf owners.

Nissan’s new “No Charge to Charge” initiative has launched at over 2,600 stations in 10 U.S. markets, further enticing Leaf owners and late adopters with free electricity — and hopefully generating some free marketing as well. The Japanese automaker is also building an additional 500 quick chargers, which can power up a Leaf to 80 percent capacity in half an hour, “at Nissan dealerships and at business and municipal partners in key LEAF markets across the U.S.,” according to the “No Charge to Charge” press release. Those markets include major cities in California, the Pacific Northwest and Texas, as well as Nashville, Phoenix and D.C. All of them are now accepting the campaign’s new EZ-Charge card, which gives Leaf owners access to free juice at ChargePoint, Blink, Car Charging, AeroVironment and NRG eVgo chargers.

It all seems to add up to a blossoming public realization that Earth’s fleet is ready to be electrified, post-haste.

“I think it is a natural evolution,” Lisa Jerram, Navigant’s senior smart transportation research analyst, told me. “The [automakers] want to move beyond the innovators and early adopters. For the next group of buyers, who weren’t already highly motivated to buy EVs, they’ll need a simple and easy charging process.”


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Mosaic, Enphase Push Home Solar Ownership Over Leases in New Partnership

Solar Mosaic & Enphase Energy are teaming up and throwing down $100 million to package what they call the first zero-down home solar loan including residential operations and maintenance services. Suddenly, leasing just lost a little more luster.

“The major difference between loans over leases is ownership, and that used to mean that if you got a loan and owned your system, you’d have to deal with maintaining your panels,” Mosaic’s Katie Ullmann told SolarEnergy after Mosaic announced the team-up ahead of the massive Intersolar North America conference in San Francisco. “Now, under this partnership with Enphase, the Mosaic Home Solar Loan provides all the financial benefits of ownership with maintenance taken care of.”

That’s some deserved peace of mind for often-busy new adopters looking to solarize, without months if not years of photovoltaic know-how. So-called service gaps like these often stall adoption and innovation, which is why the P2P platform pioneer Mosaic has joined operations and maintenance (O&M) heavyweight Enphase to bridge the divide between the solar haves and have-nots. At least $100 million is on the table, which is a lot of sunshine power — and there may be more on the way, said Ullmann.

“$100 million of loans is roughly 3,500 residential systems, or 25 megawatts,” she explained. “Mosaic expects to finance these $100M of loans over 2014 and 2015 with multiple installers.”


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Solar-Powered Carports Get Financing Boost From Clinton Initiative

Property assessed clean energy (PACE) solar financing has gone supernova. In fact, it’s caught the attention of a certain well-connected president.

The Clinton Global Initiative, with current commitments reportedly valued over $70 billion, has teamed with solar project financier Demeter Power Group to create what it’s calling the Feed-Out program, “the world’s first market-based, fixed-price funding program for solar and renewable technologies.” It’s a mouthful of marketing, sure, but the overall point is much more direct: By exploiting PACE bonds, which are collateralized by voluntary property taxes rather than traditional counterparties, CGI and Demeter are essentially financing free solar-powered carports for the future’s electrified fleets.

The only bad news is that you’ve got to be in Northern California to get one.


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SunPower, KB Home Bring Energy Storage to Solar Suburbs

Southern California suburbs make great petri dishes for SunPower and KB Homes, who have teamed up since 2011 to build thousands of houses with built-in solar panels. Now they’re throwing battery storage into the mix, starting in San Diego, Irvine and El Dorado Hills, in hopes of expanding the solar suburbs and kickstarting the next stage of home solar evolution.

SunPower and KB’s battery pilot program promises to store power obtained during the day for use during the evening, or even blackout and other emergencies. That resilience is what has propelled solar power to the renewable energy forefront, from houses and cars to communities and microgrids. If SunPower and KB Homes’ longtime partnership is any indication, this is simply a beginning “with the potential for a broader rollout to additional communities next year,” as well as Australia and Germany, SunPower explained.

“With energy storage capability, homeowners with solar power systems and home system monitoring today can control their electricity costs and have the security of knowing they’ll have power during an outage,” SunPower CEO Tom Werner added in the pilot’s press release. “In the near future, battery storage will help homeowners manage energy loads using stored power, including charging electric vehicles at night.”


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State-By-State: Fossil Fuel's Uphill Fight Against Home Solar

News flash: Petrochemical billionaires and conservative activists Charles and David Koch are spending and lobbying like mad to stop renewable energy momentum in its tracks. But it seems that even so-called red states are getting sick of their dirty energy game.

“There are numerous examples of how the Kochs and their allies in the fossil fuel industry have failed, because of political and economic forces supporting clean energy,” Energy and Policy Institute executive director Gabe Eisner told me. “Kansas is a great example, where bipartisan support stopped an onslaught by the Kochs, their front groups and their lobbyists.”


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