Pope’s Global Call for Solar Catholic Schools is Laudato Si’ in Action
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.
The 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”
With 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)
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