Rjukan is a small town in an area of Norway called Telemark. It is located just west of Oslo. This town was once a significant center of industry. This is because the town sits very close to the Rjukan Falls, and the falls power a hydroelectric power plant. The landscape around the village is unbelievable. There is a mountain on either side, and it is so picturesque that it is something that you would see in a storybook. If you put a beautiful castle on one of the mountains, you would think that you were looking at something from a fairy tale.
There may not be a fairytale castle on the mountains, but there are stories of trolls living up in the mountains. Legend says that there is a civilization of trolls living at the highest points. Since we all know that trolls don’t exist, it is clear that these are all just stories, but the local children love to hear them. The legends of trolls aren’t the only interesting thing about this small town.
A Winter Without Sun
Because the small town of Rjukan is responsible for running the hydroelectric power plant, it is crucial that people are able to live and work there. Unfortunately, this isn’t always easy. Rjukan is located in a valley, and it is surrounded by mountains. Because of this, six months during the winter, the town gets almost no sunlight at all. Can you imagine living somewhere where you don’t see the sun for a full six months? Without enough sunlight, the winters are especially cold, and the darkness does a number on the residents’ mental state and well being.
Sam Eyde is an engineer who worked hard to find a solution to the problem. He came up with a great idea; however, he didn’t have the technology to pull it off. Without the necessary technology, he didn’t see any point in trying to get funding. How can you fund a project that can’t exist? It wouldn’t be 12 years until Sam’s idea would come to be, and he wasn’t the one who executed the plan. It was a man named Martin Andersen.
Martin Andersen isn’t an engineer like Sam Eyde. He is actually a local artist. He used his artistic ability and Sam’s idea to come up with a solution to the town’s problem. And he believed that he could create “artwork” on the mountain in the form of a huge mirror installation. He thought that if he put mirrors in the right places on the mountain, it could reflect the light down into the valley, keeping the sun on the town all winter long. Martin understood that it would take more than just an adequately placed mirror to make the plan work. Technology and money would play a significant part in the plan.
Convincing the Municipality
Martin’s first hurdle was to convince the municipality that the installation would be helpful. Even though the locals were in the dark all winter long, they were against the installation at first. They liked the quiet little town, and they worried that the mirror installation would disrupt their calm, serene lives. Finally, Martin overcame the opposition, and now it was time to get the funding.
Martin knew that the installation would be expensive. He needed to get the funding for three, 180-square-foot mirrors. He also needed computers that would be hooked up to the mirrors so that the mirrors could move along with the sun. Finally, he needed the funding to get the installation up to the top of the mountain. The full cost of the project would be $750,000, and Martin knew that the town didn’t have that kind of money.
Fortunately, he was able to find funding. He got a German firm to agree to pay for the three massive mirrors. The town paid $150,000, and the government and the power company, Norsk Hydro covered the rest. In 2013, the mirrors were in place and ready for operation. The mirror installation is called, Solsepeil, which translates to mirrors in Norwegian. Getting the mirrors to the top of the mountains was no easy feat. Helicopters had to carefully bring them to the mountain and gently lower them to avoid breaking the mirrors.
Today, the citizens of Rjukan are glad that they agreed to the installation. The winters are warmer, and they are no longer in the dark for six months. Martin says that he can’t take all of the credit for the installation. He gives a lot of credit to Sam Eyde, who originally came up with the idea. Martin says that he just took a good idea and make it come to life. A town in Norway installed huge mirrors in the mountains as part of an extraordinary plan, and it was a huge success.