The Monastic Republic of Mount Athos will be equipped with photovoltaic units in a project worth EUR 13 million from European funds provided by the Central Macedonia regional authority. The combined peak capacity of the solar power plants in monasteries and accompanying facilities will be 2.6 MW.
Seventeen out of 20 monasteries in a self-governing area in the Chalkidiki peninsula are replacing diesel-fueled generators with solar power. Regional Governor of Central Macedonia Apostolos Tzitzikostas approved the start of installation of 21 photovoltaic units in Mount Athos worth EUR 13 million.
Improving quality of life
The Serbian Hilandar monastery, Russian Saint Panteleimon and Greek Konstamonitou monastery aren’t included in the project, which will be paid for with European funds obtained by the regional authority. The authorities envisage the installation of 2.6 MW in total peak capacity. Mount Athos has a special status in the administrative division of Greece and it is not part of Central Macedonia.
Tzitzikostas said the locations have been determined and that the community would enter “a new energy era,” with a more environmentally friendly approach and energy and resource efficiency. In his view, the endeavor will improve the quality of life of the monks and the millions of visitors to the “garden of Panagia” – Mary, the mother of Jesus.
Monasteries getting rid of fossil fuel, noise, dust
Solar panels will also enable the monasteries to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and the use of firewood, while lowering noise pollution at the same time, according to the governor. He added the project should be completed within two years. The area isn’t connected to the national grid, so each monastery is providing for its own energy needs.
The savings in terms of primary energy consumption is estimated at 4 GWh per year. Diesel fuel is currently delivered through the unpaved roads on the Athos peninsula, which generates dust.
The biggest solar power plant is planned for the Vatopedi monastery – 540 kW. Most of the other units are set to have 144 kW, including the ones in the Georgian Iviron monastery and Bulgarian Zograf. A study showed Mount Athos can cover 75% of the energy needs with the project.