Vatican unveils ambitious solar
Nov 26, 2008 - Philip Pullella -
|People walk in St. Peter's Square
at the Vatican November 25, 2008. The Vatican
is set to go green on Wednesday when technicians
throw the switch on a new solar energy system
to power several key building and commit itself
to renewable energy for 20 percent of its needs
by 2020. REUTERS/Tony Gentile
VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - And then there
was light -- and it was powered by the sun. The Vatican
on Wednesday activated a new solar energy system and
announced an ambitious plan that could one day make
it an alternative energy exporter.
The massive roof of the "Nervi Hall"
where popes hold general audiences and concerts are
performed, has been covered with 2,400 photovoltaic
panels to provide energy for lighting, heat and air
After weeks of tests, the system went
on line at full throttle hours before Pope Benedict
held what officials called the "first ecological general
audience in the Vatican."
The new system on the 5,000 square meter
roof will produce 300 megawatt hours (MWh) of clean
energy a year for the audience hall and surrounding
The 1.2 million euro ($1.6 million)
system, devised and donated by German companies SolarWorld
and SMA Solar Technology, will allow the 108-acre
city-state to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by
about 225 tons and save the equivalent of 80 tons
of oil each year.
"This is a very courageous initiative,"
said Carlo Rubbia, the Italian who won the 1984 Nobel
Prize in physics and attended the unveiling ceremony
in the Vatican.
"The sun has 100,000 times the energy
produced by traditional sources of energy on earth.
This why we need so much science, so much investment
in research for the future," Rubbia said at the unveiling.
FIELDS OF SOLAR PANELS
Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, the governor
of Vatican City, said the Vatican was thinking of
a much more ambitious project at a huge tract of land
it owns north of Rome which is used as a transmission
center for Vatican Radio.
"We are thinking of a solar energy
system on 300 hectares (740 acres) at the site," he
Pier Carlo Cuscianna, head of technical
services for Vatican City, said such a project could
produce six times the amount of energy needed to power
the transmission antennas.
"The rest could be transferred to the
(Italian) national grid for power for surrounding
communities," Cuscianna said.
The site, called Santa Maria di Galeria,
is owned by the Vatican and such a project would make
it an exporter of alternative energy.
Cuscianna said it was "just an idea"
for now but that he expected it to move on the project
Officials said the Vatican planned to
install enough renewable energy sources to provide
20 percent of its needs by 2020, broadly in line with
a proposal by the European Union.
The Nervi Hall has a sweeping, wavy
roof and the solar panels are virtually invisible
from the ground. Church officials have said the Vatican's
famous skyline, particularly St. Peter's Basilica,
would remain untouched.
(Editing by Dominic Evans)