Now three giant mirrors, called heliostats, have been erected on a 400-metre (437-yard) high peak to beam the sunlight onto the town’s square and residents will be able to enjoy winter sunlight for the first time ever.
According to Oeystein Haugan, a local project coordinator, “The idea was a little crazy, but madness is our middle name.”
Apparently it was Norwegian industrialist Sam Eyde, who first created Rjukan, when he founded Norsk Hydro. He apparently wanted to take advantage of an enormous waterfall to produce chemical fertilisers.
“When Rjukan was founded, it was a bit crazy to start a community in the middle of nowhere with this massive hydroelectric plant, huge pipes and a railway line to transport fertiliser to the rest of the world,” Haugan said.
As the business grew, so did the number of inhabitants, which increased from 300 spread over scattered farms in 1900, to 10,000 people in 1913. Eyde had endorsed a project to deflect sunrays into the village, but at the time it was just not possible.
According to the town’s mayor, Steinar Bergsland, “It’s one of the few projects that Eyde was unable to complete, due to a lack of appropriate technology.”
Apparently what Eyde did instead was to built a cable car, still in use today, to let his employees travel up to the mountain-top to recharge their vitamin D levels in the sunlight.
But then an artist, Martin Andersen, who moved to the village from Paris, also picked up on the mirror idea.
Andersen explained, “The further we got into winter, the further we had to drive out of the valley to enjoy sunlight. So I asked myself: why not move the sunrays instead of moving ourselves?”
Apparently some of the other residents challenged the idea, unsure of the appropriateness of spending public money on the mirror project, instead of on nurseries and schools.
Bergsland said, “Some labelled it a Mickey Mouse project and it’s true it’s a little insane, but we have to think out of the box and explore new paths.”
And now, the project has gone ahead and apparently 5 million kroner ($849,000) was raised to do it, including 4 million coming from sponsors.
Now three 17-square-metre (183-square-feet) mirrors tower over the north side of Rjukan village: see more