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Sun shines on the Vatican

G-Online

Solar

The Vatican

Solar panels cover the roof of the Paul VI audience hall with the Basilica of Saint Peter in the background.

Credit: AFP / Andreas Solaro

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VATICAN CITY: The Vatican has begun its green journey to renewable energy by installing solar panels on a concert hall.

The 2,400 panels on the 5,000-square-metre roof of the Paul VI auditorium, near St Peter's Basilica, where popes hold general audiences, will convert sunlight into 300 Megawatts of electricity a year.

This is enough for the year-round energy needs of the hall, which is also used for concerts and conferences, and several surrounding buildings, according to the Vatican.

The auditorium is one of the most modern buildings in the Vatican City and the system will save the equivalent of 80 tonnes of oil per year, or 225 tonnes of CO2.

Other buildings in the Roman Catholic Church's city state will soon benefit from renewable energy sources as the Vatican expands its green ethos across its 44 hectares.

It plans to have enough renewable energy sources to provide 20 per cent of its needs by 2020, in line with a European Union target.

The next project will be a solar heating facility in its so-called "industrial zone".

Pope Benedict XVI and his predecessor John Paul II both encouraged the Vatican to go progressively "green".

Since summer 2007, the Vatican has been involved with a scheme to restore an ancient forest in Hungary, under a pact with Planktos-Klimafa, an eco-restoration company.

The reforestation scheme is aimed to make it the world's first carbon-neutral sovereign state by offsetting its emissions through planting trees.

Under the Kyoto Protocol, states can purchase so-called emission credits to compensate for their excess greenhouse gases.

On a visit to Australia earlier this year, the pope warned his audience that humanity was squandering the Earth's resources to satisfy its insatiable appetite for material goods.