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Summer Solstice Put Solar On It

The longest day of the year, Summer Solstice marked a national day of action for Mosaic’s ongoing Put Solar On It campaign. Because every day is one of action for the accelerating solar industry, which is going mainstream on Wall Street and Main Street with light speed. To date, Mosaic has plugged smart investors into solar projects to the tune of millions of dollars raised and kilowatts generated. But its newly launched organizing and funding platform Mosaic Places — which is being championed during the Day of Action by everyone from the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy and the National Wildlife Foundation to Green for All and REVERB — is but one of many ways citizens, homeowners and more can get directly involved in the Put Solar On It awareness blitz. Here’s a handy roundup.

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SolarCity’s Manufacturing Shift Will Keep the Solar Boom Going

SolarCity may be America’s installation leader, but it still wasn’t a manufacturer like SunPower, whose Maxeon systems happen to be the PV industry’s efficiency leader.

But that all changed with Elon Musk and the Brothers Rive’s announcement that SolarCity is acquiring Silevo — which also happens to make panels with a quite competitive 22 percent efficiency. And did I mention that Silevo is locally sourced down the street from SunPower in Fremont, California? Oh, and that SolarCity is also planning to build, in New York, “one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world?”

Musk and the Rive brothers did, thanks much, and just in time. America’s solar tariff war with China was about to make SolarCity’s reliance upon foreign manufacturers like Trina Solar quite expensive. Indeed, the trade spat forged a hastily announced deal between SolarCity and “unsubsidized” European manufacturer REC. But of many great things about Musk is that he has a lot of money — and he knows how to use it. With one acquisition, SolarCity has made itself a triple threat — manufacturing, sales, installation — in a consolidating industry looking for visionaries.

It’s not clear to some that the U.S.-China showdown led to this momentous sector convergence, which could set the industry’s template for years to come. “Silevo already seems exempt from tariffs because it has PIN junction cell,” Greentech Media editor Stephen Lacey tweeted after I proposed the tariff dispute played a greater role than Musk and the Rives disclosed. But it doesn’t matter in the end.

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MORPHTV: Legend of Korra Can Save Us From Ourselves

UPDATE: I have written once again about this singular show, this time for Salon. And right after I did that, Nickelodeon pulled it off television. Salon’s edit did not include everything, so here is co-creator Bryan Konietzko’s answer to my question about Korra’s sudden appearance, before it suddenly disappeared, right before Comic-Con:

Man, this is the most entertaining and simultaneously difficult interview I have ever done! As for the release, we just make the show, which is, as you sensed, an incredibly difficult endeavor. The network is obviously in charge of its promotion and release. Some plans shifted around and they saw a window of opportunity to make Book Three a prominent feature for the channel this summer, which we are happy about. Not only will the premiere be three episodes, but every Friday after the 4th of July will feature two new episodes, 8:00 to 9:00 pm. That is something we never had the opportunity to do consistently because we were always finishing the episodes rather close to their air dates, even back on A:TLA. The first half of Korra was a bumpy ride on the production side of things, but with Books Three and Four we really caught our stride. So we actually have enough episodes in the can for the network to air them in these mini bundles. Mike and I are deeply pleased with how Book Three turned out, so the sooner it’s released the better.

I’ll update my interview after the Comic-Con panel. Shame on Nickelodeon.


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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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