The German solar panel company SolarWorld has installed solar panels on the roofs of the Vatican. The Pope switched to the system earlier this week and is expected to announce drastic plans to expand on the project. The solar panels are placed on top of the massive roof of the Vatican’s Nervi Hall, where the pope receives general audiences.
A total of 2,400 photovoltaic panels have been attached to this 5,000 square meter roof. They are not noticeable from the ground below and can provide all of the energy for the hall and a few other buildings adjacent to it. Exact output is 300 kilowatt hours (kWh) annually.
The solar panels reduce the 108-acre city-state’s carbon dioxide emissions by about 225,000 kilograms (225 tonnes). They also save the equivalent of 80 tonnes of oil on an annual basis. The Vatican plans to be 20% self sufficient for its energy needs by 2020.
In the near future, the Vatican wants to set up a solar energy system project on a tract of land north of Rome called Santa Maria di Galeria, which it owns. The land which is currently used as a radio transmission center for Vatican Radio, will generate over six times the energy needed for the radio station and the Vatican will transfer the excess energy back to the (Italian) national grid for power for surrounding communities.
Pope Benedict XVI is arguably the most environmentally-conscious pope to date. The Vatican is more than carbon neutral already because all greenhouse gas emissions that it produces are offset by renewable energy credits and carbon certificates. On top of that, the Vatican is the owner of enough trees in Hungary to totally offset all carbon emitted from Vatican City. Now, the city is the only sovereign state in the world that classifies as carbon neutral.
Earlier on in the year, the Church replaced the historic list of seven deadly sins with a list of seven “social” sins which has a rather eco conscious tone to it. The new list of sins includes environmental pollution and genetic manipulation as well as practices which lead to poverty.
The new Seven Deadly are:
Accumulating excessive wealth
Drug trafficking and consumption
Morally debatable experiments
Violation of fundamental rights of human nature.
The social sins echo the idea of the seven cardinal vices – which were devised in the sixth Century. Kind of neat especially because the punishments have been left out this time around.
Pope Benedict is however not all too keen on discussing his green credentials – spokespeople at the Vatican refused to inform Newsweek journalists whether the Vatican has switched to energy saving light bulbs. They wouldn’t divulge either whether the pope is trying to cut back on gas use.