Vatican solar system

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The Vatican's new solar energy system has been activated, and the Vatican has announced an ambitious plan that could 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 conditioning. The Nervi Hall has a sweeping, wavy roof and the solar panels are virtually invisible from the ground.

The new system on the 5,000-square metre roof will produce 300 megawatt hours (MWh) of clean energy a year for the audience hall and surrounding buildings.

The 1.2 million euro ($2.37 million) system, devised and donated by German companies SolarWorld and SMA Solar Technology, will allow the city-state to cut its carbon dioxide emissions by about 225 tonnes and save the equivalent of 80 tonnes of oil each year.

Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, the governor of Vatican City, said the Vatican was thinking of a much more ambitious project at 300 hectares of land it owns north of Rome at Santa Maria di Galeria, which is used as a transmission centre for Vatican Radio.

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, with the surplus power fed into the Italian national grid for power for surrounding communities.

The Vatican plans to install enough renewable energy sources to provide 20 per cent of its needs by 2020, broadly in line with a proposal by the European Union.

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