Pope Benedict held his first "ecological audience" yesterday, L'Osservatore Romano, said as the Vatican flipped the switch on its massive electricity generating solar panels.
As the Pope addressed the 9,000 faithful, 2,400 solar panels on the roof above his head converted sunlight into electricity to light and heat the hall, The Times Online reports.
As if on cue, the skies above Rome turned clear and sunny after days of cloud and rain.
The Vatican said the solar panel project was one of several "concrete and tangible initiatives" to promote protection of the environment, and part of the "green culture characterised by ethical values" promoted by Pope Benedict.
An inauguration ceremony was held the Pontifical Academy of Sciences, attended by Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, the Governor of Vatican City, Frank Asbeck, president of Solar World AG, the Germany company which donated the panels, and Carlo Rubbia, winner of the Nobel Prize for Physics.
The Vatican aims to become the world's "first carbon neutral state", and is growing a 37 acre forest in Hungary to offset its annual carbon dioxide emissions.
It has undertaken to use renewable energy for 20 percent of its needs by 2020.
The panels on the undulating 5,000 square metre roof of the audience hall will produce 300 kilowatt hours of "clean energy", supplying the energy needs of the hall itself and nearby Vatican buildings.
Vatican officials said the panels would save the equivalent of 80 tonnes of oil each year. They cannot be seen from the ground and so will not affect the Vatican skyline, officials said.
Pope moves towards a greener Vatican (Times Online, 26/11/08)
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