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Giant Mirrors Bring Sun to Rjukan, Norway

Updated on January 16, 2016

Giant 'Heliostat' Mirrors

Giant sun mirrors above Rjukat, Norway
Giant sun mirrors above Rjukat, Norway | Source

The Gaustatoppen Mountains

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The Norwegian Industrial Workers MuseumThe Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum from a lower angle
The Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum
The Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum | Source
The Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum from a lower angle
The Norwegian Industrial Workers Museum from a lower angle | Source

Sunlight Could Not Get Through the Gaustatoppen Mountains

Rjukan, Norway is a small town at the foot of the Gaustatoppen Mountains. Until now, they have been unreached by the sun for 5-6 months out of the year, which happens to be during the winter. This makes for really cold and depressing winters for residents of Rjukan.

After all, Rjukan is known for having the best skiing, ice climbing, and mountain biking in all of Norway - but residents are willing to trade that reputation in for a little more sunlight in the winter.

To solve this problem, giant mirrors (called Solspiel for "sun mirrors") were installed at the top of the mountains to reflect this precious sunlight onto the streets of Rjukan, Norway in their market square. As you can imagine, citizens of Rjukan are now dancing in the streets in the sunlight during the cold, winter months.

As of October 13, 2013, the giant mirrors were dedicated and put into commission at an unveiling ceremony.

Mountain Mirrors Give Light

Rjukan, Norway

A markerRjukan, Norway -
Rjukan, Norway
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Sunlight Reflecting in the Rear Window

Sunlight reflecting in rear window of car
Sunlight reflecting in rear window of car | Source

How Much Did it Cost?

The Mirror Project cost the town of Rjukan, Norway $847,000

The Mirrors Bring Sun to a Dark Valley

Until this giant undertaking of installing three large mirrors, this small town of 3,400 has literally been in the dark 5-6 months out of the year because of the massive Gaustatoppen Mountains.

The Mirror Idea Has Been Around for 100 Years

This idea of placing mirrors on the mountain has been talked about for 100 years in Rjukan, Norway. It wasn't until 2005 that Martin Anderson - a resident of Rjukan - launched "The Mirror Project." The website for this project goes into detail about installed the heliostats, which is the technical term for these giant mirrors.

A Giant Gondola Was Built Instead of the Giant Mirrors

The founder of the town Rjukan - Sam Eydes - was the first came up with the sun mirror idea in 1913, but was not able to start the ambitious project. Rather than build the giant sun mirrors, the successors to Sam Eydes built a gondola called the Krossobanen in 1928 to transport residents of Rjukan to experience the winter sunshine. This gondola is still in operation today.

The Krossobanen is able to transport thousands of people every year to the mountains where sunlight shines through.

The Technology Behind the Heliostats

The heliostats were placed on top of the mountain (at an elevation of 742 m above sea level) and are driven by solar-powered computers that tracks the sun's movement over the horizon. The giant mirrors then reflect the sun's rays into Rjukan's market square.

These three giant mirrors shine a single beam of sunlight 2,100 meters into the town in the valley below.

Rjukan, Norway Created from the Hydro Industry

Rjukan, Norway was coriginally created by the Norwegian industry and planned out by the best architects and engineers. Rjukan was referred to as a "company town" as it was created Norsk Hyrdo in the hydro energy industry

Fact: Rjukan, Norway was nominated as a candidate for UNESCO┬┤s World Heritage Site list. This nomination will be formally announced on the official list in 2015.


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    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 4 years ago from the short journey

      Very interesting to learn about this formidable project. Thanks for including some history on it.

      It will also be interesting to see how the project works out over a course of time and whether there are any issues that arise from its use. The innovation will continue to be studied, I'm sure, but I also imagine that the people of Rjukan enjoy it very much! Being from the sunny south, USA, it is difficult to imagine not being in any sunlight for nearly 6 months out of the year.

    • tirelesstraveler profile image

      Judy Specht 4 years ago from California

      Will be curious to see if this causes a change in the towns climate. If they have more sunlight will it be warmer? Very interesting information.

    • profile image

      sheilamyers 4 years ago

      Very interesting. It was a very ambitious project and cool that someone finally took the idea and made it a reality. Thanks for sharing.

    • Ericdierker profile image

      Eric Dierker 4 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

      Thanks for sharing this cool information.

    • brownella profile image

      brownella 4 years ago from New England

      Interesting hub. I've seen mirrors used for illumination but never heard of anything on this scale, it must have taken quite a bit of math to prevent excessive heat from radiating off the mirrors at different sun angles. Great topic, thanks for sharing :)