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This Dark Town Uses Giant Mirrors to Get Winter Sun

By Orgesta Tolaj


3 November 2023

Rjukan solar experiment

© Marek Piwnicki / Unsplash

While we complain about having some gloomy days throughout the year, Norway is having a lot more trouble than you might imagine. A small town in Norway is considered quite sun-deprived, which has led to people asking for solutions on how to get more sunlight in. And a great solution they got! This is the Rjukan Solar Experiment, a project that shows how giant mirrors are used to reflect the winter sun for more warmth in Norway. Here is how it works.

The Rjukan Solar Experiment

Rjukan, a small Norwegian town nestled deep within the narrow Vestfjord Valley in the Telemark region, has devised a creative solution to its lack of sunlight. Located southwest of Oslo, the town is surrounded by high mountain peaks that soar to nearly 2,000 meters above sea level. However, these majestic mountains have a downside. They effectively stop sunlight for around half of the year, casting the town into a very long shadow state from September to March.

Rjukan solar experiment

To combat this seasonal absence of sunlight, Rjukan has undertaken an innovative project. Giant mirrors have been strategically positioned on the surrounding mountains. They are specifically designed to capture and redirect the sun’s rays onto the town’s central market square. Additionally, this project has brought much-needed illumination to the lives of Rjukan’s residents. It has removed the sun-starved conditions that had previously been a part of their daily existence during the long, dark winter months.

How the Project Was Made Possible

After a century of consideration, Rjukan recently celebrated the launch of a project aimed at bringing sunlight to the town. The project includes three advanced mirrors on Gaustatoppen Mountain, collectively covering 50 square meters. They now direct sunlight to illuminate the town center, expanding the lit area to 600 square meters. This $850,000 endeavor was possible through 21st-century technology. The project uses computer-controlled mirrors, called heliostats, which continuously adjust their positions every 10 seconds to follow the sun’s movement throughout the day.

Rjukan solar experiment
© Karl Martin Jacobsen / VISITRJUKAN.COM

Not the First Time That the Rjukan Solar Experiment Was Suggested

The idea to bring sunlight to Rjukan, a town with a century-old history, originated from the founder of Norsk Hydro, Sam Eyde. Rjukan was established as a company town to support Norsk Hydro’s fertilizer plant. It used the hydropower from the nearby Rjukanfossen waterfall. Eyde’s motivation was to improve the well-being and productivity of workers during the long winter months.

The concept of using mirrors to reflect sunlight onto the town was first proposed way before. Local bookkeeper Oskar Kittelsen wrote about it in a local newspaper. Although Eyde was intrigued by the idea, technological limitations of the time prevented its implementation. Instead, in 1928, the region saw the construction of northern Europe’s first cable car. This was known as Krossobanen and it provided residents with access to sunlight at higher altitudes.

Rjukan solar experiment
© Tore Meek / EPA

This sun mirror idea lay dormant for almost a century until 2005. This was when local artist Martin Andersen revived it. He secured sponsorship funds, mostly from Norsk Hydro, and created interest in the project. Solar Tower Systems, a company experienced in building mirror systems for solar thermal power plants, was asked to install the mirrors on the mountain wall.

How do you usually deal with cold weather? Do you think you could handle the harsh winters in Norway? Comment down below and let us know what you think!

You might also want to read: The Last Ring of Fire Solar Eclipse You Will See Until 2039

Orgesta Tolaj

Your favorite introvert who is buzzing around the Hive like a busy bee!