Skip to comments.Sun-Starved Alpine Villagers 'See The Light' With The Help Of Solar Mirrors
Posted on 01/15/2005 7:53:13 PM PST by blam
Sun-starved Alpine villagers 'see the light' with the help of solar mirrors
By Clare Chapman in Innsbruck
Residents of an Austrian mountain village deprived of sunshine for four months of the year have found a way to beat the winter gloom.
Mirrors will be installed in a sunnier spot across the valley, to reflect sunlight back to Rattenberg and eliminate the shadows that make its inhabitants feel so depressed.
Franz Wurzenrainer, the mayor, said: "When weather forecasters predict a bright winter's day with plenty of sunshine, we have to take their word for it. From November to February, the sun is too low on the horizon and our small community is permanently in the shadow of the Stadtberg Mountain."
From next winter, however, an array of computer-guided solar reflectors known as heliostats will be used to bounce the sun's rays to a rocky outcrop close to Rattenberg, where a second bank of mirrors will direct the light on to the streets and rooftops of the medieval village below.
Markus Peskoller, a scientist at the Bartenbach Light Laboratory in Aldrans which gave the village advice on the problem, said that the 8ft-square mirrors would give residents the feeling of sunlight.
"We believe we can direct enough sun on to the village to chase away the winter blues and promote psychological well-being," he said.
Villagers agreed to raise the 2 million (£1.4 million) needed to fund the project helped by EU and Austrian government grants after a survey found that lack of winter sunlight was the most common reason given by inhabitants for moving away.
Many Alpine villagers suffer from a lack of sunlight in winter, and research has shown that too little sunlight can cause fatigue, weight gain and concentration problems all of which can culminate in mild to severe depression.
Dr Peter Erhard, a local GP, said that lack of sunlight made Rattenberg's 455 inhabitants more prone to sickness each winter than those living in sunnier spots. "People feel more alive and energetic when the sun comes out, so it's understandable that many people in the village feel lethargic and depressed in the winter," he said.
"Erecting mirrors to shine a bit of light on our village is a great idea."
Local businesses also suffer in the winter months as the number of visitors dwindles to almost zero despite the village's reputation for fine glass making. Mr Wurzenrainer said: "Visitors simply do not want to come in winter because it is just too depressing, so our businesses suffer for four months each year."
After studying the village and observing the sunshine just across the valley nearby, scientists from the Bartenbach laboratory decided that reflected sunlight would be a better solution than artificial lights.
Dr Peskoller said: "Sunlight brings security and a better standard of living. We decided that the light should come from above, not from artificial lights at house-level, and we decided to create an impression that the sun really is there.
"In the neighbouring village of Kramsach there is plenty of sun and so we can catch the light from the mountain there and send it to Rattenberg."
The mirrors will be clustered to give the appearance of the sun and will be turned away in spring and summer to avoid confusion with the real thing.
Dr Peskoller believes that when the system is seen to work, it will be copied elsewhere. "We could help many other mountain villages see the light," he said.
Wouldn't walking to the other, sunnier side of the mountain work?
These folks have never spent the winter in Kaleephornia's Central Valley. Sun? What sun?
OMG they are going to _DESTROY_ the surrounding environment errecting those mirrors. THey are altering the natural life cycle of plants and will cause their town to warm up because of the sun light. /sarcasm
Imagine having to clean all those mirrors.
My thoughts exactly.
I know this problem very well. When I lived in Valdez, we were in the shadow of a mountain from Thanksgiving until Valentine's day (roughly). VERY dreary and depressing. The town (about 5 miles away) got sunshine all winter. If we wanted sunshine, we had to drive to town for it.
Will the Kramsachians sue the Rattengergers for theft of sunlight?
That's a very interesting web site, now bookmarked for future reference. Thanks! Didn't realize we almost lost Q back in December.
500 people, over $2 million spent. They need to sell a lot of glass to pay for that!
It is a good one, isn't it? ianfleming.org is a worthwhile click as well.