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Case Study

High tech meets historic – solar energy in the Vatican

Setting the scene

Vatican City may be the smallest sovereign state in the world, but it is also one of the greenest. It has long been an exemplar for tackling climate change through its approach to renewable energy. 

Thanks to a unique photovoltaic plant installed on the roof of the Vatican Audience Hall, the Papal State has been producing 300 MWh of solar energy every year since its installation in 2008.

The project was planned and managed by BayWa r.e.  with the PV modules, inverters and its installation donated by solar technology provider, SolarWorld.

The challenges

When installing the photovoltaic panels, the challenge was to fit leading-edge technology around the fabric of the historic building. 

As a first step, we removed 4,800 concrete elements from the roof of the Audience Hall which had previously served to provide shade for the building. To preserve the shade, the PV modules were designed and produced with exactly the same dimensions and mounted on the existing holders. To further increase the efficiency of the solar energy system, semi-reflecting aluminium panels were installed in the remaining areas. 

A total of 2,394 PV modules were installed on the 2,134 m2 roof of the Nervi Hall, which was original designed by the Italian Architect Pier Luigi Nervi. 

Although the project required intensive detailed planning, time-consuming removal of the original roof structure and the customised manufacture of PV modules, we managed to successfully complete the project within just twelve months. And then continued to manage the maintenance of the system for the next five years. 

The results

Thanks to our detailed planning and implementation of the project, the successful installation of the solar system on the roof of the Nervi Hall demonstrates how leading-edge technology can be efficiently and intelligently integrated with historic buildings.

In the heart of the Vatican, we converted 2,134m2 of idle roof space into a source of green renewable energy. 

The energy produced by this plant is directly fed into the Vatican's grid, helping to save around 225 tons of CO2 each year.

This was an exciting and challenging project that illustrates how our most important and historically significant buildings can become greener through the installation of modern renewable energy systems.

Enrico Marin
Managing Director, BayWa r.e. Solar Systems srl

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