Jumping the gun on the greening of the Vatican


Solar panels are seen from the roof of the Paul VI audience hall at the Vatican. The Vatican installed its first solar-generated electrical system in November 2008. (CNS/Reuters)

VATICAN CITY — Several news  sources were all aglow last week saying the Vatican was going to build Europe’s biggest solar plant.

While that may be on Vatican engineers’ wish list, to be making such claims “is extremely premature right now,” Pier Carlo Cuscianna, director of technical services for Vatican City, told me today.

The Vatican turned the football field-sized roof of its Paul VI audience hall into a giant solar-power generator last November and the city’s engineers have several other green ideas up their sleeves. Their goal is to have Vatican City using renewable energy for 20 percent of its needs by 2020, a target set for all the European Union.

But some reporters jumped the gun last week, saying the solar plant project intended to be built on Vatican territory north of Rome would be subsidized by Italy and help supply 400,000 Roman families with electricity.

Such news reports are based on “a lot of imagination,” Cuscianna told me.

He said they are still in the very early planning stages and still have to map out technical details and carry out feasibility studies before any sort of proposal is presented to Vatican officials governing Vatican City State for approval.

Right now, he said, the whole pile of different “hypotheses” and ideas for the new solar project are on his desk waiting to be worked on.

Same goes for finding funding sources and sponsors. Italy has not gone to the Vatican ready to pony up money, he said, because no completed project proposal exists. Once the proposal is completed and approved, then the Vatican will concern itself with finding ways to cover the costs, he said.

Cuscianna wouldn’t give me any idea about when he thought the proposal would be ready, but he assured me when the plans were finalized and approved they wouldn’t be keeping it in the dark.

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