Norwegian Town Builds Its Own Artificial Sun

For five months out of every year, the citizens of Rjukan live in the shadow of neighboring mountains. That won't be the case this year.

What's the Latest Development?

Rjukan, a town of 3,500 located about 170 kilometers west of Oslo, has become the newest municipality to make its own sunshine, so to speak: This month engineers will complete an ambitious project that involves putting three 300-square-foot heliostatic mirrors on the mountains above the town. These mirrors will be controlled by a central computer that will allow them to reflect light onto a 2,000-square-foot circle located in the town square. The project, which is estimated to cost less than US$1 million, will enable citizens to experience winter sunshine for the first time without having to leave the valley.

What's the Big Idea?

Between September and March, most of southern Norway still receives some sunlight, but the sun doesn't get high enough to clear the mountains that surround Rjukan, leaving it in perpetual shadow. The town was first settled when an industrialist, Sam Eyde, built a hydroelectric plant in the valley in the early 1900s. The mirror idea was originally his, but without a way to implement it, the alternative was to build a cable car that would bring residents closer to the sun for a few hours each day. 

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