What do Norway and Justin Timberlake have in common, besides being awesome? Give up? They both love mirrors. At least, the town of Rjukan does. About two hours west of Oslo and home to only 3,500 people, Rjukan will see more than five months of darkness this winter, which sounds depressing even if you live in the Pacific Northwest. To combat this, the town is placing giant mirrors on neighboring mountains to help pour some sunlight into its town square:
Three mirrors with a total surface area of about 538 square feet will sit at an angle to redirect winter sun down into the town, lighting up over 2,150 square feet of concentrated space in the town square. A similar idea exists in the Italian village of Viganella, which has used brushed steel to reflect light since 2006.
A computer located in Rjukan’s main town hall office will operate the solar-powered system, which continually monitors the movement of the sun and calculates the optimal positioning of the German-made mirrors to keep the square — which the city plans to turn into a skating rink — bathed in sunlight. The project will set the Norwegians back 5 million kroner (about $835,000), but 80 percent of the funds will come privately and the system will run primarily on solar and wind power.
The mountaintop mirror isn’t a new idea — Norwegian engineer Sam Eyde proposed it almost 100 years ago, but the technology wasn’t in place. He settled for building a cable car, so at least people could escape the dreariness.
The mirrors were delivered earlier this month and will get their first test in September, when hundreds of Norwegian children will sing, “I don’t wanna lose you now! I’m lookin’ right at the other half of meeee …” Rjukan may decide that Seasonal Affective Disorder is preferable.
Giant Mirrors to Light Up One Dark Norwegian Town, Popular Mechanics.
Get Grist in your inbox