Solar Lights Ancient Armenian Church

The 1,000-year-old Armenian Cathedral of the Holy Cross, on the Turk island of Akdamar, is a place of worship once more — largely due to the Turkish desire to heal ancient religious and ethnic wounds, but in part thanks to solar power.

A cultural landmark on the island in Lake Van, the Armenian Cathedral hadn’t held services since the early 1900s, when ethnic cleansing led to the destruction of most Armenian churches in eastern Turkey. It was restored in 2006 and opened as a museum in 2007. Diesel powered the lighting for the museum, but only for three hours a day, and at the prohibitive cost of 25,000 Euros a year.

Kyocera solar modules, Akdamar, Turkey

image via Kyocera

But the solar potential for the site was obvious: the surrounding province has among the highest sunlight values in Turkey. “In combination with the cool island climate, the location offers ideal conditions for the operation of a solar-power generating system,” the Japanese solar company Kyocera, which did the installation, said in a press release.

With the solar system in place — providing on the order of 25,000 kilowatt hours per year — the Turkish government granted permission to hold services at the cathedral every year, an event the Financial Times said symbolized “Turkish efforts to overcome its troubled history with ethnic and religious minorities.”

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Pete Danko is a writer and editor based in Portland, Oregon. His work has appeared in Breaking Energy, National Geographic's Energy Blog, The New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere.