Here comes the sun
June 17, 2014
Mark Wilson/Getty Images

Tesla and SolarCity CEO Elon Musk's today announced a deal to acquire Silevo, a solar panel firm based in Silicon Valley. Musk explained the decision in a blog post:

SolarCity was founded to accelerate mass adoption of sustainable energy. The sun, that highly convenient and free fusion reactor in the sky, radiates more energy to the Earth in a few hours than the entire human population consumes from all sources in a year. This means that solar panels, paired with batteries to enable power at night, can produce several orders of magnitude more electricity than is consumed by the entirety of human civilization. [Solar City]

To get there, though, solar energy needs two things — both of which Musk wants to address himself. First, mass energy storage. The sun shines when it's sunny. Storage is necessary for cloudy days and nights. Musk is addressing this with the Tesla Gigafactory, mass battery-manufacturing facilities that Musk projects will drive down lithium-ion battery costs 30 percent in the first year alone. And second, solar needs economies of scale. That's why Musk has acquired Silevo, with the intention to build Gigafactories for solar panel manufacturing:

We are in discussions with the state of New York to build the initial manufacturing plant, continuing a relationship developed by the Silevo team. At a targeted capacity greater than 1 GW within the next two years, it will be one of the single largest solar panel production plants in the world. This will be followed in subsequent years by one or more significantly larger plants at an order of magnitude greater annual production capacity. [Solar City]

But that's just the start:

Even if the solar industry were only to generate 40 percent of the world’s electricity with photovoltaics by 2040, that would mean installing more than 400 GW of solar capacity per year for the next 25 years. We absolutely believe that solar power can and will become the world’s predominant source of energy within our lifetimes, but there are obviously a lot of panels that have to be manufactured and installed in order for that to happen. The plans we are announcing today, while substantial compared to current industry, are small in that context. [Solar City]

Of course, solar energy costs were rapidly falling even before this. But this kind of focused project is likely to keep that momentum going for a while yet. It is looking more and more likely that we will soon live in a world where renewable energy is cheaper than fossil fuels.

vax populi
5:33 a.m. ET

Last week, Jimmy Kimmel broadcast this surprisingly hard-hitting public service announcement about childhood vaccinations. He felt the need to talk about vaccinations, he said, because, at least in some parts of Southern California, "parents care more about gluten than smallpox." Since anti-vaccination parents wouldn't take advice from a talk-show host, Kimmel invited on real (foul-mouthed) doctors, who "didn't learn about the human body from their friends' Facebook page." Jenny McCarthy probably won't go on Kimmel Live anytime soon:

On Monday night's show, Kimmel noted that, not surprisingly, anti-vaccination advocates weren't pleased with his segment. The part where Kimmel reads terrible things people tweeted at him, then refuses their demands to apologize or "give the other side," is really good television. The part where "Jack and Becky" try to convince parents to let their kids decide about vaccinations is merely amusing. —Peter Weber

The Dress
4:59 a.m. ET

A curious thing happened last Thursday. An insane number of people looked at a photo of a dress and couldn't agree on what colors it was. And they argued about it online and in person for, like, 24 hours. But you are on the internet, so you already knew that. If you're not sick of "The Dress" — or need a quick primer — Jimmy Kimmel had some thoughtful things to say about it on Monday night's Jimmy Kimmel Live:

On Monday night's Late Night, Seth Meyers took a closer look at the uproar, in a segment he calls "A Closer Look." The "married couple" skit is pretty funny. —Peter Weber

The Daily Showdown
4:17 a.m. ET

When Democrats controlled the Senate and Republicans ruled the House, Washington was mired in gridlock, Jon Stewart said on Monday night's Daily Show. But when the GOP took the reins in the Senate, Republicans were supposed to get stuff done. Stewart even made up a promising buddy cop show starring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker John Boehner to illustrate this new era of GOP congressional action.

But of course, Republicans flailed in their first big standoff with President Obama, trying to tie funding for the Department of Homeland Security to overturning Obama's executive orders on immigration. And Stewart was happy to dance on their flub, both substantively — "To stop the president from being too lenient on illegal immigration, you want to defund the department that secures the border?" he asked incredulously — and politically. McConnell came up with a workable compromise, but the House GOP said no, showing who's been clogging up Washington's plumbing for the past four years, Stewart said. "Turns out, no one can work with the Republican House. They're the Keith Olbermann of Congresses." It gets worse for Boehner. Watch below. —Peter Weber

ISIS
2:58 a.m. ET

When Iraq launched its third attempt to retake Tirkit from Islamic State on Monday, Iran was aiding it with drones, artillery and rockets, and Revolutionary Guard troops and commanders. Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran's Quds Force militia, was on the ground near Tikrit, according to Iran's Fars news agency. The U.S. was watching from the sidelines.

"We are fully aware of the operation, but the Iraqis did not request our support for it," Pentagon spokesman Col. Steve Warren told The Wall Street Journal. "Our presence in Iraq is at the request of the Iraqi government." And Iraq didn't request American help, U.S. officials said, because Iran was supporting the 15,000 Iraq army troops, roughly 15,000 Shiite militia volunteers, and up to 2,000 Sunni tribal fighters. Tikrit, the home of Saddam Hussein, is largely Sunni, while Iran and Iraq's government is Shiite.

The U.S. and Iran are both working with Baghdad to defeat ISIS, but they aren't working together. Instead, a U.S. official tells The Journal, the U.S. supports Iraq's military in central Anbar province and the Kurdish regions in the north, while Iran assists mostly in areas to the east of Baghdad, where "geography naturally favors more Iranian influence." The BBC helpfully explains why Iraq's military needs the help, in this 45-second video. —Peter Weber

real estate
2:08 a.m. ET

Fans of The Walking Dead who have always wanted to own part of a town and happen to have $680,000 are in luck: Downtown Grantville, Georgia, featured on an episode during the show's third season, is up for sale on eBay.

The town's former mayor, Jim Sells, owns the historic property and is hoping to sell it to someone who has "a vision," he told BuzzFeed. He said he'd like to see it "active and thriving," and noted that fans of The Walking Dead flock to the town on tours. The property boasts nine buildings with apartments, restaurants, office space, a pharmacy, and retail space, and is located 40 miles away from Atlanta. Its moment in the spotlight isn't done yet, either — three movies, including a sequel to The Ring, will soon be filmed in the area. —Catherine Garcia

safety first
1:43 a.m. ET
iStock

Police stations across the United States are now doubling as safe havens for Craigslist buyers and sellers.

In Naperville, Illinois, police Cmdr. Ken Parcel said Monday that allowing Craigslist users to buy and sell in the station lobby is "a preventative measure to ensure there's a safe place to allow [buyers and sellers] to conduct their normal lives and businesses." He stressed that officers and staff are not assisting with transactions. Chicago does not have official safety zones, but the city's police department did say in a statement it urged people who are buying and selling to meet in well-lit public places and bring along a friend or relative.

In Indiana, a number of violent crimes linked to Craigslist made the town manager of Whitestown spring to action. Dax Morton told the Chicago Tribune the violence was the "straw that broke the camel's back," and that residents in his town can now use the municipal complex for transactions and can ask for police supervision. "My wife uses Craigslist a lot," he said. "I think it's a great idea."

welcome to 2016
1:26 a.m. ET
Bill Pugliano/Getty Images

During her four years as secretary of state, Hillary Clinton didn't have a government email account and used only her private account, in possible violation of the Federal Records Act, The New York Times reported Monday night. Just two months ago, Clinton advisers reviewed tens out thousands of pages of Clinton's emails from that period and turned 55,000 pages over to the State Department for archiving.

This blockbuster report didn't escape the notice of former Gov. Jeb Bush (R), who made public 250,000 emails from his eight years as governor back in December, before an anticipated 2016 presidential run:

"Hillary Clinton should release her emails," Bush spokeswoman Kristy Campbell told the Tampa Bay Times. "Gov. Bush believes transparency is a critical part of public service and of governing." And she, too, pointed to jebemails.com. But "the Bush files, though enormous, are not complete," noted the Miami Herald's Mary Ellen Klas in January:

The former governor conducted all his communication on his private Jeb@jeb.org account and turned over the hand-selected batch to the state archives when he left office. Absent from the stash are emails the governor deemed not relevant to the public record: those relating to politics, fundraising, and personal matters while he was governor. [Tampa Bay Times]

In case you weren't counting, the Iowa caucuses are in 11 short months.

stoner logic
1:03 a.m. ET
Sean Gallup/Getty Images

File this under "not smart": A Nebraska man was cited for possession of less than an ounce of marijuana after deputies found a sour cream container marked "Not Weed" in his car that was actually filled with the stuff.

The 21-year-old Lincoln man was stopped on Saturday night, and despite his best efforts, Lancaster County Sheriff's deputies weren't fooled by his fake label and opened up the container to discover 11.4 grams of marijuana, the Lincoln Journal Star reports. The man admitted it was his, and was arrested for driving under the influence of alcohol. Points for at least trying to pull a fast one?

safety
12:25 a.m. ET
David McNew/Getty Images

On Monday, United Airlines announced it will stop accepting bulk shipments of rechargeable batteries amid safety concerns.

The batteries are often shipped by the tens of thousands in one cargo container on a plane, and tests by the Federal Aviation Administration over the past year have shown that just one battery overheating can transfer to others, causing a chain reaction of batteries releasing explosive gases. Several tests have ended with fiery explosions, The Associated Press reports.

Delta Air Lines stopped accepting bulk shipments on Feb. 1, but both Delta and United will still allow bulk shipments on board if the batteries are inside of something else, like a laptop, as the belief is that gives the battery a buffer. In a statement, United said, "Our primary concerns when transporting dangerous goods are the safety of our customers, our customers' shipments, and the environment."

Watch this
12:08 a.m. ET

If you have a favorite duet from the last 50 years, there's a good chance Jimmy Fallon and Kelly Clarkson perform it in their "history of duets" on Monday night's Tonight Show. Everyone from Human League to Sonny and Cher get sing-outs, plus some musical collaborations you might have forgotten about (yes, we're talking about you, Paula Abdul and MC Skat Kat). And finally, we learn a vocal impression Fallon can't do: His Aaron Neville is terrible. Otherwise, grab a seat and enjoy the show. It's a good one. —Peter Weber

See More Speed Reads