Winter light: Solar mirrors bring sunshine to dark Norwegian town

(CBS News) The small industrial town of Rjukan, Norway is tucked away in a valley, so for the past 100 years, they haven't gotten direct sunlight in the winter. However, that all changed on Wednesday when they switched on large solar mirrors.

For six months of the year, beginning in October, the sun is so low in the sky it never reaches the valley floor, where the town actually is.

Even with Norwegian stoicism, Karin Ro who runs the tourism authority there says it could be a tough place to live.

"People need sun, if people get sun they will be more healthy and they will work better," she said.

The founder of the town - a foresighted industrialist named Sam Eyde - recognized the problem and put in a cable car to take the residents up the hillside and into the sunlight to keep them from getting a terminal case of cabin fever during the long dark winter.

Yet, modern technology may have solved the problem. Instead of bringing the people to the light, they've figured out a way to bring the light to the people.

An array of mirrors has been installed on the hillside, programmed to track the sun across the sky and reflect it down into the town below, but it doesn't light the whole town, just the town square.

Ro told CBS News' Mark Phillips that even that little bit of sunshine will help.

"It makes a difference, and this is the 'center' of the town," she said.

For Mark Phillips' full report, watch the video in the player above.

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