The sun mirrors of Rjukan are an engineering solution to provide winter sun into the deep sided valley. We hope you enjoy learning about these unique features.
Deep in the narrow Vestfjord valley in Telemark lies the tranquil industrial town of Rjukan. Rjukan was created to serve the needs of Norwegian industry. Much of its development took place mainly at the beginning of the last century and is thanks to the vision industrialist Sam Eyde. Rjukan remains the home to a thriving community and is a special place to visit.
It can also be, given its valley position, a very shady place to visit. Rjukan manages without the sun for almost six months of the year (September to March). Luckily, for ice climbers, this creates the cold temperatures needed for great climbing conditions. The frozen water courses of the deep sided gorge and its surrounding hillsides offer world class climbing.
Rjukan formed around the hydro electric plant. This was initially used for fertiliser production and a leading figure in the communities development was plant owner Sam Eyde. He built houses for the employees working in the plant. He was aware how important it as to keep the workforce fit and happy. To this end Eyde conceived various initiatives to help them find some sunshine during those shady winter months. Some projects came to fruition in his lifetime and some of his other ideas have been followed through since.
In 1928 a gondola was constructed, known as Krossobanen. This was to transport locals and visitors to the sunnier mountain areas above the town. It still carries thousands of people every year. He also conceived the idea of adding a Solspeil, or sun mirror, to reflect sunlight into the valley.
The sun mirror (there are actually 3) wasn’t completed in his lifetime, but it is good to see that others later brought the idea to fruition. The project was taken up again in 2005 by Martin Andersen. Martin is an artist and resident of the town and it is great to see the mirrors in action. The computer-driven ‘heliostats’ sit on a steep mountain wall 450 metres above the town. They are able to follow the movement of the sun and direct the captured rays into the town’s market square.
At the time of the sun mirrors of Rjukan construction, there was considerable opposition. In particular, people questioned the high cost of what they to be a frivolous project. The good news is that it is now recognised that the mirrors bring considerable tourism to the town. They are certainly a unique feature. If you are in Rjukan and need a sunshine fix, certainly do head to the market square. You’ll be able to sit with other locals soaking up the winter sun.
You can read more about the sun mirrors on the Visit Norway website here. If you fancy seeing the sun mirrors of Rjukan on one of our trips, please check out the details here. You can get a feel for one of our trips by reading our Virtual Norway Ice Climbing 2021 article here. Our Rjukan Top Tips article here is a useful guide for anyone visiting the area. Finally, our Heroes of Telemark article here gives an insight into Rjukan’s unique war time history.