MORPHTV: Legend of Korra Can Save Us From Ourselves

It’s always hard for me not to cry watching The Legend of Korra‘s wordless, wonderful season trailers. This one for the heavily anticipated third season is even more powerful than the last two, and not just because we are accelerating toward a real-time extinction the show could help us solve, should we choose to embrace it as more than cultural programming.

As I have written many times before, The Legend of Korra is the greatest show on television, in any format, precisely because it strives to correct imbalances of the heart, mind, world and more through stunning animation, meditative philosophy and environmental, elemental apocalypse.

If only we watched, listened and learned hard enough, we might save ourselves from ourselves, before it is too late.

Screen the reel above to begin that hopeful process, then click below to read my past work on The Legend of Korra‘s singular show.

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YieldCos: New Financing Tool to Spread the Solar Boom

Avoiding or offloading corporate income taxes is business as usual for major players in the dirty fuel and real estate sectors. Now it’s renewable energy’s turn to reap the rewards of fancy math.

Enter the rise of the clumsily named YieldCo, which like real estate investment trusts (REITs) or the extraction industry’s master limited partnerships (MLPs) are publicly traded financial vehicles created to decrease risk and volatility — and increase capital and dividends. But instead of securitizing pipelines and properties, YieldCos sell millions of shares backed by global megawatts of solar power generation.

Just ask SunEdison, which was upgraded to Buy from Deutsche Bank this week, thanks to its solar YieldCo. “We expect the emergence of 5-6 publicly traded YieldCos over the next 12-18 months to act as a robust growth enabler,” Deutsche explained.

SunEdison’s $300 million IPO for its YieldCo comes on the heels of Spain’s Abengoa, whose YieldCo is ramping up a $600 million IPO, as well as NRG Inc’s NRG Yield and SolarCity’s securitization, all of which have mainstreamed the mechanism for Wall Street and Main Street investors.


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New York High-Risers Hope for Solar Access with New Bill

Many New Yorkers live in high-rises, some of which won’t or can’t go solar for one reason or another. So how about building some offsite shared renewable facilities they can buy into, and profit from, to lighten the grid’s load and potentially reduce “carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and particulate matter”?

That’s the green plan, according to New York State Assembly Bill A09931, sponsored by Democrat Amy Paulin. Also known as the Shared Clean Energy Bill, A09931 passed the Assembly’s energy committee last week and is now parked at Ways and Means, whose chair, Herman Farrell Jr., has a legislative history concerned with consumer protection and neighborhood preservation.

Which is a positive sign, even though New York’s legislative session ends June 19.


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US Solar Boom Continues, Developing World Faster

Here’s the good news: Paris-based Renewable Energy Policy Network for the 21st Century (REN21) has released its influential annual Renewables Global Status Report (PDF), and it’s mostly positive for the solar sector. The bad news? The overall globe that REN21 happens to be analyzing just can’t seem to get its renewables house in order.

In 2013, policy uncertainty in the United States and parts of Europe helped bring down global investment in solar photovoltaics 22 percent in dollar terms, the report explains. China beat the United States and Brazil beat Canada in total installed renewable power capacity. In fact, China’s renewable power capacity surpassed new fossil fuel and nuclear capacity for the first time, while Denmark, Germany, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, and Austria respectively led the world in per capita renewable power capacity. Suddenly, America’s solar war with China doesn’t look so cut and dried.


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PACE Financing Offers Even More Reasons to Go Solar

After a bumpy start, Property Assessed Clean Energy (PACE) financing has again picked up steam as public-private option for homeowners looking to solarize. Last month, the Los Angeles County Board of Supervisors voted for PACE financing for 42 cities, clearing the way for Renovate America‘s HERO program and other energy retrofit financiers to clean up their carbon footprint. This month, Connecticut securitized a PACE portfolio worth a cool $30 million.

So far, 80 percent of the U.S. has enabled PACE, and the rest probably isn’t far behind.

That’s because PACE is a rather simple solar bond that mostly copies the historical industry model for loans. Participating municipal governments or finance companies offer investors PACE bonds backed by consumer and business loans, collateralized in turn by annual property tax assessments, and then everyone lets the sunshine in. Financing for rooftop solar systems and power purchase agreements is repaid over a standard 20-year period, unless the property changes hands before that, in which case the loan stays attached to the property rather than the owner.


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US-China War Bad News for Home Solar

Now that the White House and the Environmental Protection Agency have issued rules regulating dirty emissions from power plants, you’d figure that the global solar sector would go supernova. You’d be wrong.

Less than a week after the release of that reportedly historic plan to take catastrophic global warming seriously, the U.S. Department of Commerce slapped preliminary tariffs ranging from 18-35 percent on Chinese solar module imports from Trina Solar, Suntech, Yingli Solar and more. And they threaten to freeze whatever hard-fought progress the sector has made so far, most notably on the home front.

“These damaging tariffs will increase costs for U.S. solar consumers and, in turn, slow the adoption of solar within the United States,” Solar Energy Industries Association CEO Rhone Resch warned in a statement. “Ironically, the tariffs may provide little to no direct benefit to the sole petitioner SolarWorld, as we saw in the 2012 investigations. It’s time to end this needless litigation with a negotiated solution that addresses SolarWorld’s trade allegations while ensuring the continued growth of the U.S. solar market


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Microgrids 101, In Three Parts

My excellent editor at SolarEnergy asked me to create an explainer on microgrids. Then he broke it into three informative chunks, which hopefully will inspire some change. Turn on, read up, plug in.

How Microgrids Offer a Cleaner, More Resilient Electrical Grid

Microgrids are evolving into cleantech solutions fueled by solar and wind. They’re more modular and resilient than last century’s sprawling macrogrids. More seriously, they are essential defenses for a dawning age of distributed generation capable of surviving the sudden, expensive superstorms of climate change. [MORE @ SOLARENERGY]

The People and Places Making Microgrids Work Today

“The main thing that makes something a microgrid is its ability to island,” Navigant microgrid researcher Asmus added. “If you want any renewables to keep operating when the grid goes down, you need a microgrid. An island of power.” [MORE @ SOLARENERGY]

A Bridge to … Somewhere? The Future of Microgrids

Unlike bridges to former futures, our resilient, decentralized energy tomorrow isn’t likely to be overlorded by a few major players. Distributed generation depends on localized power, and its plugged-in citizenry, to properly function. although that process has its own learning curve. [MORE @ SOLARENERGY]

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