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Australia to Build the World’s Largest Solar Farm to Power Singapore

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Australia to Build the World’s Largest Solar Farm to Power Singapore
Photon-Photos / iStock / Getty Images Plus

The desert of Australia's Northern Territory has the iconic Ayers Rock, but not much else. Soon, it may be known as home to the world's largest solar farm, according to the Guardian.


The massive project outside Tennant Creek will cost about $20 billion and offer a construction boon to solar power developers while also changing the face of Australia's energy industry.

The current plans for the project, known as Sun Cable, call for a 10-gigawatt-capacity array of solar panels that will spread across 37,000 acres. It will be backed up by battery storage to make sure it can supply power 24-hours a day. Electrical lines will then send the electricity to Darwin, powering the small city at the top of Australia. Yet, the vast majority of the energy will travel through an undersea cable that snakes through Indonesia to Singapore, as the Guardian reported.

The group behind Sun Cable says the solar farm will capture "one of the best solar radiance reserves on the planet" and provide 20 percent of Singapore's electricity, replacing its gas-fired power.

"It is extraordinary technology that is going to change the flow of energy between countries. It is going to have profound implications and the extent of those implications hasn't been widely identified," said David Griffin, managing director of Singaporean developer Sun Cable, as PV Magazine Australia reported. "If you have the transmission of electricity over very large distances between countries, then the flow of energy changes from liquid fuels — oil and liquid natural gas — to electrons. Ultimately, that's a vastly more efficient way to transport energy. The incumbents just won't be able to compete."

Assuming the project passes muster after an environmental review, Sun Cable will start construction in 2023 with commercial operations to start in 2027. The project will employ Australian businesses and personnel and could create thousands of construction and manufacturing jobs in the sparsely populated Northern Territory.

So far, the project has been embraced by the local government and enticed investors, including software billionaire Mike Cannon-Brookes, who is considering involvement through his Grok Ventures private investment firm, according to the Guardian.

The Sun Cable projects follows an equally ambitious project in a dry, dusty part of Western Australia, where developers want to build a hybrid wind and solar plant to power local industries.

"To our knowledge, it's the largest wind-solar hybrid in the world," said Andrew Dickson, project developer, at the proposed Asian Renewable Energy Hub, as the Guardian reported.

Furthermore, Indonesia-based Terregra Renewables has successfully commissioned its first Australian based solar farm in Southern Australia, according to Renew Economy.

"This will be the channel through which production of energy in Australia will greatly reduce emissions in the rest of the world. It will also be a foundation for a new era of economic expansion and prosperity," said Ross Garnaut, chairman of the Australian-German Energy Transition Hub, who champions Australia's potential as a clean energy leader, as the Guardian reported.

The push toward exporting renewables could help Australia meet its commitment to the Paris climate agreement, which is at risk if it continues its unfettered oil and natural gas exploration, as EcoWatch reported last week. Australia is the currently the world's biggest exporter of coal and rivals Qatar as the leader in selling liquefied natural gas.

A net-casting ogre-faced spider. CBG Photography Group, Centre for Biodiversity Genomics / CC BY-SA 3.0

Just in time for Halloween, scientists at Cornell University have published some frightening research, especially if you're an insect!

The ghoulishly named ogre-faced spider can "hear" with its legs and use that ability to catch insects flying behind it, the study published in Current Biology Thursday concluded.

"Spiders are sensitive to airborne sound," Cornell professor emeritus Dr. Charles Walcott, who was not involved with the study, told the Cornell Chronicle. "That's the big message really."

The net-casting, ogre-faced spider (Deinopis spinosa) has a unique hunting strategy, as study coauthor Cornell University postdoctoral researcher Jay Stafstrom explained in a video.

They hunt only at night using a special kind of web: an A-shaped frame made from non-sticky silk that supports a fuzzy rectangle that they hold with their front forelegs and use to trap prey.

They do this in two ways. In a maneuver called a "forward strike," they pounce down on prey moving beneath them on the ground. This is enabled by their large eyes — the biggest of any spider. These eyes give them 2,000 times the night vision that we have, Science explained.

But the spiders can also perform a move called the "backward strike," Stafstrom explained, in which they reach their legs behind them and catch insects flying through the air.

"So here comes a flying bug and somehow the spider gets information on the sound direction and its distance. The spiders time the 200-millisecond leap if the fly is within its capture zone – much like an over-the-shoulder catch. The spider gets its prey. They're accurate," coauthor Ronald Hoy, the D & D Joslovitz Merksamer Professor in the Department of Neurobiology and Behavior in the College of Arts and Sciences, told the Cornell Chronicle.

What the researchers wanted to understand was how the spiders could tell what was moving behind them when they have no ears.

It isn't a question of peripheral vision. In a 2016 study, the same team blindfolded the spiders and sent them out to hunt, Science explained. This prevented the spiders from making their forward strikes, but they were still able to catch prey using the backwards strike. The researchers thought the spiders were "hearing" their prey with the sensors on the tips of their legs. All spiders have these sensors, but scientists had previously thought they were only able to detect vibrations through surfaces, not sounds in the air.

To test how well the ogre-faced spiders could actually hear, the researchers conducted a two-part experiment.

First, they inserted electrodes into removed spider legs and into the brains of intact spiders. They put the spiders and the legs into a vibration-proof booth and played sounds from two meters (approximately 6.5 feet) away. The spiders and the legs responded to sounds from 100 hertz to 10,000 hertz.

Next, they played the five sounds that had triggered the biggest response to 25 spiders in the wild and 51 spiders in the lab. More than half the spiders did the "backward strike" move when they heard sounds that have a lower frequency similar to insect wing beats. When the higher frequency sounds were played, the spiders did not move. This suggests the higher frequencies may mimic the sounds of predators like birds.

University of Cincinnati spider behavioral ecologist George Uetz told Science that the results were a "surprise" that indicated science has much to learn about spiders as a whole. Because all spiders have these receptors on their legs, it is possible that all spiders can hear. This theory was first put forward by Walcott 60 years ago, but was dismissed at the time, according to the Cornell Chronicle. But studies of other spiders have turned up further evidence since. A 2016 study found that a kind of jumping spider can pick up sonic vibrations in the air.

"We don't know diddly about spiders," Uetz told Science. "They are much more complex than people ever thought they were."

Learning more provides scientists with an opportunity to study their sensory abilities in order to improve technology like bio-sensors, directional microphones and visual processing algorithms, Stafstrom told CNN.

Hoy agreed.

"The point is any understudied, underappreciated group has fascinating lives, even a yucky spider, and we can learn something from it," he told CNN.

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