Living in darkness for months at a time sounds like a nightmare. For the inhabitants of the Norwegian town of Rjukan, it's reality.
Every year, from September to March, this town is cast in perpetual darkness. Now, engineers will place three enormous heliostatic mirrors -- each measuring 538 square feet wide -- on the faces of the mountains surrounding the town. Commonly used on solar farms, the mirrors will adjust to the position of the winter sun and redirect its light onto the darkened town square.
Those mirrors will bring around 2,000 square feet of concentrated light to the area.
With a population of 3,500, Rjukan is nestled deep in the Vestfjord Valley and was first settled in the early 20th century. The idea had been originally suggested by industrialist Sam Eyde, who had started the local hydroelectric plant, fearing that workers were not getting enough sunlight. However, realizing that their technology was not advanced for such a project, he opted for a cable car, allowing workers to get a few hours of sunlight on the weekend, according to TIME.
Perhaps it is the largest attempt at creating an artificial light source, but it is by no means the first. In 2006, the Italian village of Viganella, which sits in a valley as well, installed a mirror about 440 square feet in size. Seven years later, the mirror is still used and was the subject of a documentary titled “Lo Specchio,” or “The Mirror.”
The Mirror Project, as the new venture has been dubbed, first began when town officials visited Viganella and were impressed at how the Italian town changed since installing the mirror. After five years of debating, Rjukan officials finally agreed to start the project.
The mirrors were delivered a few days ago and construction is scheduled to be completed soon, reported Gizmodo. However, the real test will come when the system is first turned on in September. The final cost of the project is said to be around 5 million Norwegian kroner or $1 million U.S.
Norwegian officials hope the square will become "a sunny meeting place in a town otherwise in a shadow."