The Dutch are known for harnessing the sea. As a low-lying country that fronts the Atlantic Ocean, land reclamation in the Netherlands dates back to the 14th century.
A 2007 study calculated that approximately 65% of the country would be submerged during high tide without the deployment of protective measures such as dikes, dunes, and pumps. Hydrological engineering has been used over the centuries to not only protect coast areas from the erosive effects of the ocean but to also expand the country.
Dutch engineering also closed off an area of the Wadden Sea in 1932. Wadden Sea is home to world’s largest system of unbroken mud flats. A dike, named Afsluitdijk spans 32 kilometers (20 miles) across the bay which enabled the reclamation of about 1,620 square kilometers (620 square miles) of land behind the dam known as polders (image below).
The Afsluitdijk is an essential part of the Zuiderzee Works, which transformed the Zuiderzee, a saltwater inlet of the North Sea. The waters behind the dike were soon flushed of the seawater and become a freshwater lake that was named Lake Ijssel.
World’s largest freshwater wind farm is in the Netherlands
Lake Ijssel is now also home to the world’s largest freshwater farm. Known as Windpark Fryslân, 89 wind turbines were embedded in the lake in a hexagon shape. The hexagon shape was designed to reduce the amount of obstruction the wind farm creates for the view of the horizon from the shore.
The wind farm, which came online in the fall of 2021, has the ability to produce 1.5 terawatt hours annually, enough electricity to power 500,000 homes in the Netherlands.
Protecting birds from windfarms
Bird deaths from colliding with turbines is a major environmental concern with wind farms. Dutch officials are testing a pilot project that powers down wind turbines during periods of high bird migration at offshore wind farms in the North Sea. The project is using modeling predictions from the University of Amsterdam to provide wind farm operators with two-day advance notice to restrict turbine speeds in order to reduce bird collisions.
Hoeksema, R. J. (2007). Three stages in the history of land reclamation in the Netherlands. Irrigation and Drainage: The Journal of the International Commission on Irrigation and Drainage, 56(S1), S113-S126. https://doi.org/10.1002/ird.340
Krijgsveld, K. L., Akershoek, K., Schenk, F., Dijk, F., & Dirksen, S. (2009). Collision risk of birds with modern large wind turbines. Ardea, 97(3), 357-366.