Imagine living without sun for five to six months of the year. It’s the reality for the citizens of Rjukan, Norway. The city is located in a valley, where sunlight doesn’t reach because of the high mountains around it.
The city has decided to bring back an idea from 100 years ago to produce artificial sunlight using mirrors.
We spoke to Rjukan’s tourist manager, Karin Rø, about the details behind the project.
Metro: Why did you decide to bring the sun to Rjukan?
Karin Rø: The idea is 100 years old, from 1913. The valley is without sun for five to six months in wintertime, because of the high mountains around. The town was built up 100 years ago to produce artificial fertilizer. We had the source to all the power needed (from) the waterfall Rjukanfossen.
So where did the idea come from?
The founder of the factory and town, Sam Eyde, (believed) that the people needed sun to be well, and wellbeing people would produce best. He didn’t manage to realize this idea. Instead (neighboring town) Krossobanen was built in 1928. Then the people could get to the sun, instead of the sun down to the people. In 2005 a local artist launched the idea again. After some work he was able to finance this project, [which] is now being realized!
How did the citizens react when you said you’d be providing them with sunlight?
The citizens have been split. Some like the idea, some [say] it is waste of money that should have been used in another way.
What materials will the artificial sun be made out of?
The Mirror is (made of) “real mirrors,” not aluminum like other projects. It will be completed this autumn. They are in place, and now they work on testing, programming etc. Hopefully it is ready when the sun disappears late September.
How big will the “sun spot” be?
The sun spot will be an ellipse shape on 200 square meters. The three mirrors are 51 square meters in total.
Will you be able to tan under this artificial sun?
I don’t know. The sun is not very strong in wintertime, but they say that the reflected light will have between 80 and 100 percent of the effect compared to the light that is captured by the mirrors.
Do you have any plans to try this in other sunless cities?
This is a local project. I don’t know about any other plans for this in other cities. Maybe some want to copy us after this. We know that there are one or two other projects like this in Europe.