In a project slated to cost $A1 billion, the Vatican is planning to build Europe's biggest solar plant on a 300 hectare site north of Rome.
Bloomberg reports the Holy See plans to build the plant on the same site where Guglielmo Marconi set up the Vatican broadcasting service in 1931.
Advised by German solar panel maker Solarworld AG, the Holy See is running counter to many governments that say harnessing sunlight on a grand scale is too costly to help curb global warming, especially in the deepest recession since World War II.
"Now is the time to strike," Cardinal Giovanni Lajolo, the Vatican City's governor, said in an interview from his study overlooking the Michelangelo designed Basilica of St Peter's. "One should take advantage of the crisis to try and develop these renewable energy sources to the maximum, which in the long run will reap incomparable rewards."
The Vatican hasn't decided how much to rely on photovoltaic panels, which turn sunlight directly into electricity, and on thermal devices that heat water for generators, Solarworld Chief Executive Officer Frank Asbeck said.
Solarworld executives in November said it was time to think about a "green" popemobile and offered to give the pope a low emissions electric car to replace the white armored Mercedes-Benz open top G-Class used by the Vatican.
While there has been no switchover since then, Cardinal Lajolo at the time called an electric popemobile a "brilliant idea".
"If it costs less and can set an example, why not?" he said.
Pope Pursues Heavenly Power With Plant Harnessing Sun (Update2) (Bloomberg)