November 29, 2005

Like little goosestepping ants under a magnifying glass

There's this village in Austria that sits between a tall hill and an even taller mountain. The village of Rattenberg was built there in the 1300's as a defense against marauders.

Problem is, the mountain completely blocks the sunlight from November to February. The population has been dwindling in recent decades, at least partly because of the long months without direct sunlight.

The solution: 30 heliostats, essentially rotating mirrors, mounted on a hillside to grab sunshine off reflectors from the neighboring village of Kramsach.

An Austrian company is hoping to use this project as a showpiece to point to. They're going to eat the planning costs (more than a half a million $US), and the EU is going to foot half the bill (2.4 million $US).

In the Tyrol region of the Alps alone, about 60 communities suffer the same fate in winter as Rattenberg. Peskoller says about six other towns in Austria and neighboring Switzerland have expressed interest.

The technology requires pinpoint beaming, and even the most modern mirrors have slight distortions and are vulnerable to strong winds.

Peskoller says those problems can be compensated for. But it would take a mirror the size of a football field to light up all of Rattenberg, "and we cannot cover the mountain with mirrors to bathe the whole town in light," he said.

So Lichtlabor plans to create about a dozen "hot spots" - areas not much bigger than a front yard scattered through the town, where townspeople can gather and soak up rays. The mirrors would also reflect at various times of day onto building facades to show daylight slowly turning to dusk.

Interesting idea. More here (minimal registration required).

Posted by: Ted at 04:23 AM | category: SciTech
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1 Interesting idea. But, if their weather is anything like mine, most winter days are overcast and they might be disappointed in how little sunlight they'll get for that price.

Posted by: Tuning Spork at November 29, 2005 08:03 PM (VMMAg)

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