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Let there be light

My condo has an east exposure. That means I get direct sun in the morning and no direct sun in the afternoon, once the sun has crossed over onto the other side of my tower.

But a funny thing happens in the late afternoon and early evening. The sun reaches just the right angle and begins to reflect off the apartment across from me. That apartment is about 11m away.

Once this happens, it then feels like I’m getting direct sun again. It floods my apartment. This may seem like a small thing, but I love it when this happens. It’s happening right now as I write this post.

So I can only imagine what it must have felt like for the residents of Rjukan, Norway when they got their first taste of winter sun back in 2013.

Rjukan is a small town of approximately 3,400 residents. It’s located about 2.5 hours west of Oslo and is situated within a deep east-west valley. 

As a result of its geography, the town is cast in shadow for about half of the year, from September to March. The elevation of the sun is simply too low for direct light to reach down and into the valley.

So what the town did was install a set of solar powered mirrors on top of the mountains. The mirrors – also called heliostats – track the sun and reflect it down into the town’s main square. Now the town gets winter sun.

Interestingly enough, many residents opposed the mirrors before they were built. They viewed it as a frivolous expenditure. Petitions and Facebook pages were created. But now that the mirrors have been installed, most of the naysayers seem to have changed their tune.

I think it goes to show just how important light is, but also how difficult change, of many varietals, can be.

Image: Flickr

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