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Renewable Sources Made up 72% of New Energy Added in 2019

Renewable Energy
Renewable Sources Made up 72% of New Energy Added in 2019
Solar panel installations and a wind turbine at the Phu Lac wind farm in southern Vietnam's Binh Thuan province on April 23, 2019. MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP via Getty Images

Renewable energy made up almost three quarters of all new energy capacity added in 2019, data released Monday by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) shows.



That's a record breaking figure, The Guardian reported. As is the fact that more than one third of global power is now provided by renewable sources like wind and solar. But IRENA Director General Francesco La Camera warned that governments must not backtrack on this progress as they work to jump start their economies in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic.

"In responding to today's crisis, governments may be tempted to focus on short-term solutions," he said, according to The Guardian. "Yet distinctions between short-, medium- and long-term challenges may be deceptive. The pandemic shows that delayed action brings significant economic consequences."

Overall, the report found that renewable energy added slightly less overall capacity in 2019 compared to 2018, at 176 gigawatts (GW) compared to 179. However, the amount of new fossil fuel power added also declined, The Guardian pointed out. Renewables also grew 2.6 times more than fossil fuels and made up 72 percent of new energy capacity added, the report found.

"Renewable energy is a cost-effective source of new power that insulates power markets and consumers from volatility, supports economic stability and stimulates sustainable growth," La Camera said in a press release. "With renewable additions providing the majority of new capacity last year, it is clear that many countries and regions recognise the degree to which the energy transition can deliver positive outcomes."

Renewable energy grew by 7.6 percent in 2019. On a regional level, 54 percent of that growth occurred in Asia. When it comes to power sources, 90 percent of the growth was driven by solar and wind, which increased by 98 GW and around 60 GW respectively.

However the 2020 outlook may be less bright, CNBC reported. There are concerns that the coronavirus pandemic and the plummeting of oil prices may decrease renewable energy investments, and there are already signs that the virus is interfering with renewable energy supply chains.

For example, Wood Mackenzie projected on Monday that 3 GW of wind and solar installation in India could be delayed because of the coronavirus lockdown and noted that the solar sector in India was heavily dependent on photovoltaic imports from China, which were impacted by the virus.

Meanwhile, the Global Wind Energy Council said in late March that wind's previously projected growth over the next five years would "undoubtedly be impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, due to disruptions to global supply chains and project execution in 2020."

WindEurope said 18 manufacturing sites in hard-hit Spain and Italy are now closed, though the majority of the continent's wind turbine factories remain open.

"As an existential threat, the multi-faceted fallout from coronavirus … now sits alongside climate change as a defining challenge of our time," La Camera wrote, as CNBC reported.

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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