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Published on June 29th, 2016 | by Aisha Abdelhamid


Call For Global Rollout Of Solar In Catholic Schools Is Pope’s Laudato Si’ In Action

June 29th, 2016 by  

Originally published on Eden Keeper.

Demonstrating the Catholic Church’s commitment to the environment, as embodied in Pope Francis’ Laudato Si’, top Vatican officials responded enthusiastically to dozens of catholic schools in Queensland, Australia going solar. All 31 schools in the Townsville Diocese have recently switched to solar power, resulting in annual electricity savings of $250,000.

solar-townsvillThe resounding success of Australia’s pilot project is now prompting Vatican officials to seek global implementation of solar-powered catholic schools.

“This is Laudato Si’ in Action”

The collaboration between Queensland’s catholic schools and the Vatican was facilitated by former Deputy Prime Minister and former Australian Ambassador to the Holy See Tim Fischer. In his role as a patron saint for Eco Community, the company that designed the Townsville project, Fischer met in Rome with Cardinal George Pell, who oversees Holy See finances.

Mr. Fischer related that Eco Community company director Martin Oldfield and Townsville Catholic Education executive director Dr. Cathy Day demonstrated the real-time, online monitoring of one of the solarized catholic schools to Vatican officials. Fischer added, “To watch in real-time the energy usage of a Catholic school in Charters Towers, while sitting in a board room in Rome – their energy pattern for the last seven days was very impressive.”

A Jesuit-educated businessman, Martin Oldfield formed Eco Community with his brother, Justin. Martin explained, “the most pleasing aspect of the Townsville project was reducing the carbon footprint.” He added, “This is Laudato Si’ in action.”

Global Solar Catholic Schools Help “Care for our Common Home”

Pope Francis tirelessly addresses climate change and global warming at international forums in Rome and around the globe. With this new initiative, the Vatican is enthusiastic, recognizing a global movement and effective means of implementing Pope Francis’ renowned encyclical, Laudato Si’, or Praised Be: On Care for Our Common Home.

The fiscal savings for a global-wide implementation of solar catholic schools is truly enlightening, too. In Australia alone, stated Sydney-based Eco Community Director Oldfield, “The savings would be $1.4 billion in operating costs to Catholic education in the next 25 years.” Fischer added, “It certainly lit up many eyes at a very senior level amongst those who have dealt with Catholic school networks in the past.”

Oldfield continued, “They were strongly interested in seeing it expanded in Australia and there is a global application for sure.” He noted, “It should mean much vital savings in the budgets of the various Catholic education systems and in each diocese here in Australia. But also in most OECD countries.”

Regarding the Vatican’s future expansion goals for solar-powered catholic schools, Oldfield replied, “I am looking at Italy, France, in Argentina and Chile and parts of the United States, possibly California.”

The Untapped Potential for Solar Schools

Confirming the untapped potential for solar schools in the US, the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) reports, “While thousands of schools have already realized the cost savings and other benefits of installed solar energy capacity, this opportunity is generally underutilized.”

SEIA explains, “The large, flat rooftops typically found on public and private K-12 school buildings throughout the United States make many of these properties excellent candidates for rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) or solar thermal systems. School parking lots can be put to productive use with solar PV canopies, which provide the added benefit of shading parked vehicles on sunny days, and tracts of vacant land on campus can be used to support modestly-sized solar PV farms.”

“Taken together,” SEIA concludes, “this untapped potential for solar on K-12 schools is immense. If each of the more than 72,000 schools for which solar could represent a cost-effective investment were to install an average-sized system, total PV capacity on K-12 schools would reach 5.4 GW – an amount equal to more than one-third of all the solar PV capacity currently installed in the United States.”

“The Green Pope”

vatican calls for global solar catholic schoolsWith over 1,000 solar panels installed on the Vatican’s audience hall, “The Green Pope” has first-hand experience with “going solar.”

From his detailed, micro view of planning individual solar schools, to his macro view of global humanity’s responsibility as steward of God’s creation, Pope Francis is one of Earth’s eminent champions of faith-based environmental activism.

“The urgent challenge to protect our common home,” states Pope Francis, “includes a concern to bring the whole human family together to seek a sustainable and integral development, for we know that things can change. He adds, “The Creator does not abandon us; he never forsakes his loving plan or repents of having created us. Humanity still has the ability to work together in building our common home.”

(Top image caption and credit: 31 solarized catholic schools in Townsville, AU, are now saving $250,000 a year. Credit: catholicleader.com.au)

Reprinted with permission.

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About the Author

is a freelance lifestyle and environmental science writer currently living in Vancouver, BC. Her interests include environmental conservation, climate science, renewable energy, faith-based environmental activism, green building, creative lifestyles, and healthy living.

  • Another benefit, which I think is greater than the monetary one is the educational one for all the students, plus all students in other schools who witness what is being done to protect “their” world and our planet, our only planet. These benefits are priceless.

  • Larry

    This is progressive thinking in action. Not only Catholic schools but ALL schools can benefit from a program like this. School complexes have mega roof space sitting idle.They also have Substantial annual electric bills. Invest in PV panel installation NOW and save hundreds of thousands of dollars long term.

  • egriff5514

    Best news I’ve seen in a while! quite cheered me up

  • Larmion

    My old catholic school had solar panels before they were cool. Which was odd, since the leadership was already powered by high-octane 100% renewable homophobia.

  • They should also take the next step and install geothermal heat pumps.

    • Sconi grower

      I wonder if air-source heat pumps would be more welcomed. You need to drill a well for ground-source, which can be difficult for schools situated in a city. Air-source heat pumps, while admittedly less efficient, would see higher rates of adoption.

  • Frank

    I’m nit picking here, but I don’t think this statement is true” 5.4 GW – an amount equal to more than one-third of all the solar PV capacity currently installed in the United States.” we have 29GW up http://www.seia.org/research-resources/us-solar-market-insight

  • Solar system installed at a Catholic church in my city:

    • Google Maps view

      • egriff5514

        That’s absolutely brilliant!

        • Eric Wadge

          Very cool. I like it. Here in Malta, I was aghast to read an article by the Maltese Bishop saying that solar panels were unsightly and that we should wait until another technology comes along which is more aesthetically pleasing.

          • Calamity_Jean

            Isn’t Malta an island? How much shore are you going to lose when the sea comes up?

            OK, I went (http://flood.firetree.net/?ll=48.3416,14.6777&z=13&m=7 ) and looked. Your island must be fairly steep, you’ll lose almost nothing with seven meters of sea level rise. Although around three meters, Manoel Island becomes two islands. Sorry, I was wrong. Carry on.

  • Matt

    Much of the money of “the church” is spread around the world. But the Pope could have the Vatican fund zero interest loans to Catholic schools to put up solar panels. And then call on all Catholic’s in the world to push on their “local” reps to make it happen. Of course the Vatican fund should focus first on poorer location. But a firmly worded letter to all priests, brothers, and sister that they should make it happen; would go a long way. Also asking priest to spread the word to flock, that they should be looking at PV as part of Catholic stewardship.

  • Philip W

    The church certainly has the money to install A LOT more solar panels.

    • Larmion

      In fairness, the previous pope did install quite a few panels in the Vatican. The current PR pope is less keen, he prefers telling others to do it instead.

      • egriff5514

        asking, not telling… encouraging, supporting…

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