Three giant mirrors have been built high on the mountainside above the Norwegian industrial town of Rjukan.
They have been erected to shed some sunlight on a town known for its winter darkness. The mirrors have been installed on the mountain wall about 450 metres above the town’s market square.
Each one measures 17 square metres – that’s 51 square metres in total to catch the sun’s rays and reflect them down on to Rjukan in an elliptical shape of about 600 square metres.
The reflected light will be between 80 and 100 percent as bright as direct sunlight.
“It’s important to have the sun in the winter time and in this town we don’t have the sun for six months of the year. People up here want to have the sun. We take the mirrors and reflect the sun down to us. It’s a crazy idea but it’s funny and I think the people like it,” explained Oystein Haugan, the sun mirror project manager.
The mirrors are controlled by a computer to follow the path of the sun, adjusting to the best angle to ensure the town square is bathed in light. The idea is not new. It was first suggested in Rjukan 100 years ago and, in 2006, a similar project was successfully set up in the village of Viganella in northern Italy.
Local people seem to have embraced the new scheme.
“They say ‘hurrah’, this is a nice idea. Now we have the sun reflected down to the town square people are coming here, they’re taking pictures, they’re laughing and having a good time,” said project manager Haugan.
Solar panels will power equipment to automatically wash the mirrors and move them into position. Designers hope the sunshine will revitalise the town during the winter months.