The Vatican goes solar


Europe’s largest solar power plant will be developed in the smallest state in the world, the Vatican. If any other major projects that are big enough to produce electricity to the whole population aren’t developed and completed elsewhere, the Vatican will become the first carbon-neutral country when the solar power system starts generating power. The solar power plant is expected to open in 2014.

It has been announced that €500 million (US $660 million) will be spent to create a massive 100-megawatt photovoltaic installation. When the installation completes, the home of Pope Benedict XVI will have a solar power system that can generate enough energy to provide electricity to 40,000 people. This will make the world’s smallest country completely solar-powered. As the Vatican has a population of only about 900 people, the surplus solar energy that is to be generated by the 100-megawatt plant will be exported to Italy.

In 2008, 2,700 solar panels – reportedly worth US $1.5 million – that were donated as a gift to the German-born Pope by a Bonn-based company SolarWorld, were installed on the roof of the Paul VI auditorium. The Paul VI auditorium was designed by architect Pier Luigi Nervi and built in 1969 and is used in poor weather for the Pope’s weekly audience with pilgrims. As it was discovered that the cement panels on its roof were deteriorating, the Vatican decided to replace them with solar panels in 2007. The panels became activated on November 26, 2008 and have been generating solar energy ever since.

The European Union has a plan to generate 20% of its total energy from renewable sources by 2020; however, not many countries have been actively working on achieving this goal. Italy is one of the good examples working on this plan: 17% of its energy used in 2012 was obtained from renewable sources, compared with 5% in 2005.

In making itself the planet’s most environmentally friendly nation, the Vatican has the advantage of its small size. For instance, the Vatican reached their record high solar energy production per capita of 200 watts per inhabitant with their installation of 2,700 solar panels. For comparison, in the same year, Germany had a solar power production capacity of 80 watts per person and Italy had 4 watts per capita.

Overall, it is evident that the Vatican tries to go greener in a big way and shows good custodianship for our planet. According to officials, almost 90 tons of oil equivalent were saved by the 2,700 panels on the Vatican’s conference hall.


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