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Mirrors on High to Bounce Sun into Frigid Norwegian Town

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October 22, 2013

A Norwegian town has deployed three giant mirrors to help with the lighting.

Rjukan, a town between Oslo, the capital, to the east and the fjords to the west suffers, like many Norwegian population centers, from intense cold because of nothing more than location. That location, far north of the Equator, doesn't lend itself to many tropical days, but the Sun is quite prominent many days throughout the year and so the town has erected three 550-square-foot mirrors on a hillside overlooking the town to take advantage of that sunlight and bounce it into the town square. Such a solution will create a sunny place in front of the town hall, something that residents don't often enjoy because the surrounding geography (namely a mountain named Gaustatoppen) creates a lot of shadows (and lets in scant sun) in town for half the year.

The 3,500 residents of Rjukan have achieved an early-20th Century dream of the town's founder, Sam Eyde, who proposed the idea of a "Solspeil" in 1913 but found the technology of the time inadequate. Rjukan residents back then did build something along those lines, though, in the form of a gondola called the Krossobanen, which shuttles thousands of people each year to the top of a nearby mountain and a bit more sunlight.

Eyde and a few others founded the town back in 1913 as a company town, built around a hydro plant that harbors the rich waters nearby to generate electricity.

Today's mirrors, along with the accompanying computer controls and sensors needed to allow the mirrors to move and focus the sunlight on the bounce, cost $825,000. Residents insist that it is worth it, however.


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