News about improvements in efficiency of solar cells, or devices that save lives and run only on energy from the sun, emerge every day. But the great uses of solar go far beyond electricity and power generation.
A small village in a remote area of southern Norway demonstrate that innovative thinking can bring sunshine even on a dark and long winter day. All you need is a mirror.
The remote village of Rjukan is a place completely surrounded by mountains. The village was established in 1900, when the huge hydroelectric plant, Norsk Hydro, was built. The founder of the plant, Sam Eyde, also wanted to produce chemical fertilizers so the village was slowly equipped with enormous pipes and a noisy railway line.
The population of the town started to grow, and by 1913 it reached 10,000. Nowadays, it has only 3,500 inhabitants and they all dread one thing- winter. They all know that as the season hits, they will not be able to see direct sunlight for six months, or at least this used to be the case.
An idea that might have seemed a bit adventurous at first came to Eyde back in the yearly 1900s, but due to the lack of needed technology, it was never realized during his time. That is, if mirrors are placed on the hills that surround the town, they will reflect the sunshine directly onto the main square.
A community project, however, decided to take on the challenge, and involved the artist Martin Andersen to pick up the idea. At first the project met quite an opposition in the face of people, who would much rather see such investments being directed to schools and hospitals, instead of this, but when various sponsors jumped in, the community budget remained intact.
The Mickey Mouse project, named after the cartoon character because of the crazy nature of the idea behind it, managed to attract investors, who gave nearly 620,000 euro. The money was used to build three 17-square-meter mirrors on the north side of Rjukan, which are controlled by a computer to follow the sun and reflect it onto the main square, covering an area of 600 square meters.
The formal ceremony, which will commemorate the beginning of the sunny winters, should be held early next week depending on the weather. The local authorities are extremely positive and enthusiastic, and believe that it will not only bring joy to the community but it will also attract more tourists.