Catholic News Service reports that the mastermind behind the environmentally friendly project, Pier Carlo Cuscianna, head of the Vatican's department of technical services, says that the sun will provide all the building's energy needs.
And that is only the beginning.
Cuscianna told Catholic News Service that he had in mind other sites throughout Vatican City where solar panels could be installed, but that it was too early in the game to name names.
Even though Vatican City State is not a signatory of the Kyoto Protocol, a binding international environmental pact to cut greenhouse gases, its inaugural solar project marks a major move in trying to reduce its own so-called carbon footprint, that is, the amount of carbon dioxide released through burning fossil fuels.
The carbon dioxide-slashing solar panels will be installed sometime in 2008 after prototypes, environmental impact reports and other studies have been completed, Cuscianna said.
In a 23 May article in the Vatican newspaper L'Osservatore Romano, Cuscianna wrote that safeguarding the environment was "one of the most important challenges of our century."
The Italian engineer said appeals by Popes Benedict XVI and John Paul II to respect nature inspired him to help power the Vatican's energy needs with renewable resources.
He recalled how, in this year's World Day of Peace message, Pope Benedict warned of "the increasingly serious problem of energy supplies" that was leading to "an unprecedented race" for the earth's resources.
Cuscianna also found inspiration from Pope John Paul's 1990 peace message, dedicated in its entirety to the need to respect God's creation.
"We cannot continue to use the goods of the earth as we have in the past," the pope wrote, calling for "a new ecological awareness" that leads to "concrete programs and initiatives."
Cuscianna took the initiative and helped draw up and deliver to the Vatican governor's office a feasibility study of going solar.
He said the Paul VI hall was chosen first for a number of reasons: Cooling and heating the large audience hall makes it one of the top energy guzzlers in the Vatican, and its roof was in need of repair.
When the project is finished, more than 1,000 solar panels will cover the football field-sized roof.
While not revealing how much the solar project will cost, Cuscianna said "it will pay for itself in a few years" from the savings on energy bills.
Whatever solar power the hall is not using will be funnelled into the Vatican's energy grid and benefit other energy needs, he said.
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