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Vatican decides its power must come from sun

John Hooper in Rome
Monday June 4, 2007
The Guardian

You are a leader who wants to move with the times and establish some green credentials; but your scope for installing wind turbines or rubbish-burning power stations is distinctly limited by your country being scarcely bigger than Pooh Bear's 100-acre wood and made up largely of untouchable gardens and buildings of priceless historic worth. What to do?
Pope Benedict XVI - or rather, his advisers - seem to have found an answer. The Vatican City State is to get a solar energy installation, craftily sited on the roof of one its few large modern buildings.

The Vatican's experts have been fretting over the roof of the Paul VI hall, the vast building where popes traditionally hold weekly public audiences in winter or whenever bad weather rules out St Peter's Square. Built by the Italian architect Pier Luigi Nervi and opened in 1971, the hall can accommodate 10,000 pilgrims.

The sweep of Nervi's undulating roof looks contemporary but its concrete tiles have proved less resistant to the years than its design, and Livio De Santoli, a professor at Rome's La Sapienza university, suggested replacing them with photovoltaic panels. The daily paper La Repubblica yesterday said the Pope had approved the project. The Vatican's chief engineer, Pier Carlo Cuscianna, believed the €2.5m (£1.7m) scheme would "put the Holy See in the forefront of solar energy technology".

Professor De Santoli said the building's apearance would not alter; each of the 4,800 tiles would be replaced by a solar panel of identical size, shape and colour. It is estimated that the panels, due to be commissioned in the first half of next year, will supply the hall's energy needs and produce a surplus.

The Vatican's "green" statements of recent months culminated in a speech in April by the Pope urging politicians to "respect creation" while "focusing on the needs of sustainable development".


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