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Overshadowed by the mighty Gaustatoppen Mountains, the Norwegian industrial town of Rjukan is plunged into darkness for nearly six months a year - but rays of hope have been helicopter-flown in, in the form of giant solar powered mirrors.
In the narrow Vestfjord valley in Telemark, west of Oslo, the 3,500 residents of Rjukan will bask in the reflected light of three 17 meter high mirrors. At 742 meters above sea level and 450 meters above Rjukan the mirrors will capture the sunlight and reflect sunshine into 2,000 square feet of the market square to elevate the darker months.
The mirrors will track the sun throughout the day, powered by solar and wind energy and controlled by a computer in the town hall.
Dubbed “Solspeil” or sun mirror, the idea was originally conceived in 1913 by the town’s founder, and global aluminum suppliers, Norsk Hydro’s founder: Sam Eyde. The idea was reborn in 2005 by Martin Andersen, Rjukan artist and resident.
As Eyde did not have the available technology, he settled on building the Krossobanen, northern Europe’s first cable car, which transported vitamin D lacking residents above the mountains and into the sunlight.
Solspeil cost NOK5 million and was financed by Tinn municipality, Husbanken, Telemark Fylkeskommune, KORO-art and local utility provider, Tinn Energi and other private sponsors.
The German-made mirrors were flown in and installed in July to be test run in September.
Rjukan are hoping the solar-powered tracking mirrors will not only brighten the town but help with a bid to be named a UNESCO world heritage site by 2015.
A similar project in an overshadowed hamlet called Viganella, Italy, called ‘Lo Speccio’ (the mirror) was installed in 2006 to avoid 83 days of darkness.