Europe is getting a massive new solar plant, all thanks to Vatican City and the cardinal sin of pollution. Europe's largest solar farm, estimated to cost $660 million, will be built on the same 740 acres in the Vatican where Guglielmo Marconi set up Vatican Radio in 1931. Once complete, the panels will provide 100 megawatts of electricity--enough to supply power for 40,000 homes. The 100 MW covers nine times the needs of Vatican Radio, which reaches 35 countries.
The Vatican hasn't yet decided how much power to get from photovoltaic panels and how much to use from thermal devices, so companies from both sectors are angling for a piece of the action. German PV panel maker Solarworld is likely to get part of the contract--the company donated rooftop solar collectors for the Vatican's audience hall last year. The Paul VI auditorium's 5,000-square-foot roof is covered with 240 solar panels that produce 300 kilowatt hours of energy each year, or enough for 100 homes.
The radio station project isn't the only solar installation that the Vatican is planning. The holy city is also outfitting its 300-seat cafeteria with a solar heating and air-conditioning system this summer, and the Pope is considering a methane gas renewable energy project at his Castel Gandolfo summer home.