While much of the northeastern U.S. broils in record heat, the southern Norwegian town of Rjukan is making plans to battle the opposite problem: no winter sunlight. Due to its location deep in a valley floor, the industrial town is completely deprived of direct sunlight five months a year. How gloomy.
Instead of wallowing in the dark, however, the city is spending about $835,000 to install three large mirrors on the sides of nearby mountains. The mirrors, known as heliostats, will capture and redirect light rays directly onto the town’s main square. As the Daily Mail reports, a solar-powered sensor tracks the path of the sun and ensures the town is always soaked in natural light. Helicopters installed the mirrors earlier this month, and the first tests will begin in September.
Although The Mirror Project is only now being implemented, the idea has been around for more than a century. Sam Eyde, co-founder of the industrial firm Norsk Hydro, first proposed the idea in 1907 when he built the nearby hydroelectric factory and settled workers in the dark valley. “But at that time, he couldn’t manage it because there was no technology. So he built a cable to bring people up to the sunlight,” Rjukan’s town manager Rune Loedoeen told the Chinese news agency Xinhua. The Krossobanen cable car system began operating in 1928.
106 years later, Eyde’s original proposal is finally coming to fruition. Many residents hope the project will attract more tourists during the winter months, as noted by Xinhua News. The town square, which currently features a parking lot, will be converted into an ice skating rink. Together, the three mirrors will illuminate a circular area covering more than 2000 square feet.
Not surprisingly, other sun-deprived locales beat Rjukan to the punch. In 2006, the village of Viganella in the Italian Alps installed a heliostat using brushed steel as a reflective surface to bathe the mountain village in sunlight.
Here are more images of the Rjukan project: