The Solar Pope

The Vatican, home of the Pope and the Catholic capital, is the smallest state in the world and soon may also become the first zero emissions state. Pope Benedict XVI has become the first pontiff to harness solar power to provide clean energy for the Vatican.

The 1.5 million dollar installation was donated by a Germany company and should be operational within the next couple of weeks. The installation consists of 2,700 solar panels and will generate enough electricity to light and air condition the 6,000 seat Paul VI auditorium. When the auditorium is not in use, the electricity will be routed into the Vatican’s mains grid. The manager overseeing the installation states it will save 200 tonnes of carbon dioxide annually, or the equivalent to 70 tonnes of oil.

The Catholic church has become increasingly vocal on environmental issues under the leadership of Pope Benedict XVI. Last year, he stated people need to “respect creation" and that he believed it was against God’s will to abuse the environment.

Benedict would appear to be seeking to lead by example. Last year the Vatican also partnered with an American and Hungarian company to sponsor the planting of thousands of trees in Hungary as a way of offsetting the Vatican’s emissions, has installed LED lighting and recent youth festivals utilized recycled prayer books, biodegradable plates and backpacks made from reused nylon.