Giant Sun Mirrors

InFocus has a great photoessay today focused on the Norwegian town of Rjukan and Viganella in Italy. You wouldn’t think, at first, that these two towns had much in common but, in fact, they do. It turns out that both of them are located in deep valleys and suffer from a lack of direct sunlight for several months out of the year. To combat this, the towns built giant mirrors in the mountains around them to focus the sun’s light down on them.

What surprises me is how long it took them to decide to do this. People do not do well when they go without sunlight for a long period of time — even if it’s just direct sunlight they’re missing. It can make some people depressed, fatigued, or stressed out not to get a little bit of sun almost every day. It also does strange things to plants who rely on the sun as one of their major energy sources. Still, it’s kind of cool that two towns finally decided to build mirrors to bounce sunlight back down on them during the months when they would get no real sunlight.

It also makes you wonder a bit about how these towns must look during those months of nearly perpetual twilight. If you were fond of that time of day for photography, then these would be ideal locations for you to visit because you’d never have to stress out over not having enough time to get your work done (except, of course, right at actual sun-going-down twilight). And, I find myself asking why they only have a few mirrors up focused on one particular spot. Wouldn’t it be better to have a lot more mirrors so that the entire town could get more light? Or is there some kind of physical issue with that (I get that it would probably cost a lot of money).

Engineering. It can even make living in a valley more tolerable.

— da Bird