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 CNS Story:

POPE-SOLAR Jan-4-2008 (430 words) xxxi

German company gives pope gift of solar panels for audience hall

By Carol Glatz
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- A German solar company has given Pope Benedict XVI something special for Christmas: an electricity-generating solar rooftop for the Vatican's Paul VI audience hall.

The Bonn-based SolarWorld is donating approximately 2,000 solar modules to be installed on the audience hall roof to provide "the very first solar power ever generated in the Vatican," said a company press release.

The solar system will produce some 315,500 kilowatt-hours of power a year, offsetting some 315 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, it said. Carbon dioxide is one of the greenhouse gases that trap heat in the earth's atmosphere and is seen as a major cause of global warming.

DGAP News, an online German financial media outlet, distributed the press release Jan. 4. A SolarWorld press officer confirmed the statement with Catholic News Service.

The press release said executives at SolarWorld had read reports over the summer that the Vatican was planning to cool and heat its large Paul VI audience hall with solar panels.

The company's CEO, Frank Asbeck, contacted the Vatican and offered to provide the solar project as a gift, according to the Jan. 4 statement.

"With our gift we are paying tribute to the German pope. We support the commitment of the Catholic Church to a responsible use of the resources of creation," Asbeck said in the statement.

The company says the Vatican recently accepted the gift on behalf of the pope.

Asbeck said making the donation was "an obvious thing to do because Pope Benedict had lived in our Bad Godesberg Rhine quarter during his time in Bonn. We therefore feel very closely attached to him."

Just a few years after Pope Benedict, then-Father Joseph Ratzinger, received a doctorate and a licentiate in theology from the University of Munich, he lectured at the University of Bonn from 1959 to 1969.

The SolarWorld press release said the solar modules will be installed this summer by the company's engineers. Construction is due to start soon, it said, and should be finished in 2008.

The project's installation and completion will also be filmed, it added.

The gift was made to coincide with the Jan. 6 feast of the Epiphany. In many European countries, people celebrate the day by exchanging gifts.

Asbeck said: "If the three Wise Men from the East came to Bethlehem today, they would in all probability bring a solar cell in addition to gold, frankincense and myrrh. It is the symbol for the preservation of creation and for the energy supply of the future."


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