Integrating Wind and Solar Energy: German Virtual Power Plant Shows How to Do It

German Combined Power PlantOver at ThomasNet Green & Clean today, I’ve written about a groundbreaking pilot project called the Combined Power Plant. See the article, “German Combined Power Plant Demonstrates Real-Time Integration of Renewables.”

What these scientists are doing is using networking technology to integrate 36 separate solar, wind, and biogas installations into one “virtual power plant.” Combining multiple sources like this allows them to balance out the various sources, solving a key problem in the integration of renewables into the electric grid.

AB — 27 June 2011

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Have Archaeologists Found Skeletons of Biblical Giants in Greece? (via A. Roy King)

I’ve seen these photos before, claiming to show archaeologists digging up skeletons of giants. A. Roy King shows how some of the best-known photos were faked.

Have Archaeologists Found Skeletons of Biblical Giants in Greece? [Updated 22 May 2010] I was intrigued recently when someone sent me a series of photos purporting to show the skeletons of giant humans excavated at archaeological sites. Here is an example to the right. However, some quick Internet research revealed that these photos are all doctored. You can see all the photos at About.com — here is an explanation and analysis by urban-legends specialist David Emery: "Giants in Greece — Analysis." The photo s … Read More

via A. Roy King

Howlin’ Wolf: Why they called it Smokestack Lightnin’

According to Rolling Stone, here’s where Howlin’ Wolf’s song “Smokestack Lightnin'” got its name:

The inspiration, said Wolf, was watching trains cut through the night: “We used to sit out in the country and see the trains go by, watch the sparks come out of the smokestack. That was smokestack lightning.”

Here’s a video of Wolf himself doing the song, along with a little howlin’:

AB — 22 June 2011

So, are cell phones really destroying the bees?

That’s what you might think from reading a recent headline, says David Sims, writing for ThomasNet Green & Clean — see “Are Cell Phones Killing Off Bees?

Sims was alerted to an article with the headline, “It’s Official – Cell Phones are Killing Bees.” Sounds pretty definitive, right? Sound science must have finally proven it, right?

Not so much. Drilling down into the sources, Sims finds that,

Favre himself [the researcher] concluded the study did not show that mobile phones were deadly for bees. The most he’d commit himself to was a hypothesis that electromagnetic fields “might be contributing to the disappearance of bee colonies.”

So, whither the bold headline ‘It’s Official’? I think the answer is that science journalism, like most journalism today, has to grab eyeballs, so journalists are motivated to write sensational headlines to attract readership. As a result, all kinds of nonsensical assertions are promoted as “fact” and “proven” when such is far from the truth — see “How the Media ‘Inform’ People What Science Has ‘Proven.’

Unfortunately, many readers don’t get past the headlines.

AB — 19 June 2011

DIY Printable Bookmark Kit With Nice Artwork From Disney

Most printable bookmarks you find online are pretty cheesy, but this one from Disney is based on some nicely-done artwork.

It’s a bit of a crafts project — took me about a half-hour to do it, as you have to print it and cut it out, and there are two pieces with some gluing and folding to be done. It’s created with kind of a black-humor theme — one piece slides in and out of the other to reveal what happens to the characters.

Here’s what it looks like. Click on the image, and that will take you to a PDF. You should download the PDF and print it out on paper or cardstock — be sure to print in landscape mode so it comes out in full size:

Click through for PDF of this printable bookmark

AB — 17 June 2011

Living Buildings: Approaching Net-Zero Environmental Impact

Oregon Sustainability CenterOver at ThomasNet Green & Clean this week, I wrote about the Living Building Challenge — an emerging standard that goes beyond LEED, awarding “Living” certification to buildings demonstrating that they have met 20 ultra-green “Imperatives.” See “Living Buildings: Like LEED on Whole-Grain Natural Steroids.”

In the article, I highlight two Living Buildings now under development in the Northwest U.S. — one of them, the Oregon Sustainability Center, is shown here.

Here’s one tidbit about the Living Building standards — the Imperatives set very strict standards about how far building materials and even services can be transported to a project site. The standards specify that consultants can’t come from farther away than 2,500 kilometers!

AB — 13 June 2011