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VATICAN-SOLAR Aug-29-2008 (380 words) With photos posted May 25, 2007, and Jan. 8, 2008. xxxi

Solar panels on Vatican hall first of several projects, says engineer

By John Thavis
Catholic News Service

VATICAN CITY (CNS) -- The Vatican will begin installing some 2,400 solar panels in late September, the first of several projects aimed at exploiting renewable energy resources in the tiny city-state.

The solar modules, which are being donated by a German company, will be fitted atop the roof of the Paul VI audience hall and will produce some 300,000 kilowatt-hours of power each year, said Mauro Villarini, the Vatican engineer coordinating the project.

Construction of the solar-energy system will continue through October, while Pope Benedict XVI and some 250 bishops meet inside the audience hall for a synod on the Bible.

In an interview Aug. 28 with the Vatican newspaper, L'Osservatore Romano, Villarini said another solar-panel system would be installed this fall above the Vatican's employee cafeteria, providing 60 percent to 70 percent of the power needed to heat and cool the building.

Both solar-energy systems are expected to be operating by the end of the year, Villarini said.

In addition, he said, Vatican experts were studying other "green" projects that may be particularly suited to Vatican City and its properties outside Rome, including the papal villa at Castel Gandolfo.

They include the possibility of small windmills, as well as treatment plants that would break down biodegradable material to produce methane and biogas, he said.

Villarini said the solar panels atop the audience hall would furnish enough power to meet the annual energy needs of about 100 families.

Even so, he said, the system will not come close to meeting the energy demands of the huge building, which uses some 2 million kilowatt-hours of power every year. The important thing, he said, is that it is a first, major step toward energy self-sufficiency.

The European Union has set a target of meeting 20 percent of its energy needs with renewable resources by the year 2020.

"Our challenge is to make sure Vatican City State is the first to meet these European objectives," Villarini said.

He said the Vatican's ecological initiatives were born out of a series of talks given by Pope Benedict, who said at the beginning of 2007 that humanity cannot continue its present patterns of exploiting natural resources.


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