How a Norwegian town will make the sun shine
October 29th, 2013
12:31 PM ET

How a Norwegian town will make the sun shine

By Jessica Gutteridge

Editor’s note: Jessica Gutteridge is an associate producer with CNN’s Fareed Zakaria GPS. The views expressed are her own.

Millions of people across the Middle East and Europe turned back their clocks last weekend, and many Americans will follow suit when Daylight Saving Time ends on Sunday.

As winter approaches and the days grow shorter, the idea of darker evenings can be depressing. But before complaining too loudly, imagine if you couldn’t feel the sun on your face for half of the year. That’s how it is for the Norwegian town of Rjukan, where residents have had to get used to long, dark winters. Nestled in a valley of the Gaustatoppen Mountains, the town is shielded from direct sunlight for 5 to 6 months of the year. Or at least it has been until later this week.

Since 1928, villagers have used a cable car to travel to the top of the mountains to soak up the sun’s rays in the winter months. But why go up if you can make the sun come down?

Martin Andersen, an artist and resident of Rjukan, launched “The Mirror Project” in 2005. The $847,000 project placed three massive mirrors on a hilltop that will direct sunlight down into the town.

The mirrors, called “heliostats,” are powered by solar and wind energy. Guided by computers, the 550 square feet of mirrors will move with the sun. They will beam the sunlight into the town’s main square where citizens will be able to stand in an ellipse of light at least 80 percent as powerful as the sunlight on the mountaintop.

This Thursday, weather permitting, they will be turned on for the winter. Here comes the sun –and the vitamin D!

Rjukan isn’t the only small European town to try this, but here the mirrors have been a long time coming. In 1913, the founder of the town imagined a “solspeil,” or sun mirror, in the hills. It will come to fruition exactly 100 years to the day since the idea first appeared in the paper.

If that seems a little spooky,  well, it is Halloween after all.

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Topics: Environment

soundoff (8 Responses)
  1. Fred Evil

    Ban DST, I hate having to change my bodies clock twice a year for no good reason!

    October 29, 2013 at 1:46 pm | Reply
    • what1ever

      DST saves tremendous amounts of energy for the whole country. It's a waste to have people going to work, eating out, and being outside if it is dark and cold. During the winter there is only limited amounts of daylight and we need to maximize the free light and heat we get from the sun during those months.

      October 29, 2013 at 6:31 pm | Reply
  2. K Randall

    its creepy that the sunlight won't move. they should make it track slowly across town the way it would do naturally.

    October 29, 2013 at 2:10 pm | Reply
  3. Monti Burns

    This is an old story, way to dust off the archives CNN… BTW.. .
    SIMPSONS DID IT!

    October 29, 2013 at 2:16 pm | Reply
  4. driranek

    $847,000?? How much would it have cost to move the town....

    October 29, 2013 at 2:22 pm | Reply
  5. ✠RZ✠

    How enlightening, but I'm not too sure about the vitamin D part. UVB light is usually more effective straight on rather than at low angles through many added miles of atmosphere in the winter. And if those mirrors are glassed, most of the UVB rays will likely be absorbed.

    October 29, 2013 at 9:01 pm | Reply
  6. j. von hettlingen

    The Norwegians are pioneers in projects, seen by other Europeans as crazy. Yet their adventurous and enterprising spirit had brought them achievements in history. Without the seafaring Vikings, Europe's past would be less colourful.

    October 30, 2013 at 11:36 am | Reply
  7. Rick McDaniel

    That might be a form of solution, but obviously, glass outdoors is very subject to breakage.

    October 30, 2013 at 6:33 pm | Reply

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