Nudging out into the IJsselmeer about 20km northeast of Zwolle, the pancake-flat Noordoostpolder was the first large segment of Flevoland to be reclaimed from the ocean. It has the wide skies that characterize the polders, and these can indeed be breathtaking especially at sunrise and sunset, but – and this is where it really scores – it also incorporates two former Zuider Zee islands. One is home to the engaging fishing village of Urk while the other, Schokland has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 1995 and boasts a particularly fascinating museum.
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A small army of wind turbines strings out along the shores of the IJsselmeer and the Veluwemeer, but they also pop up on many other rural horizons from Friesland to Zeeland. In the countryside, solitary turbines provide electricity for farmers, while on the coast and out to sea, banks of turbines harness the incoming weather systems, providing electricity for thousands of households. Erected in the 1930s, the first wind turbines provided electricity for remote communities in the US and the Australian outback. However, their full potential wasn’t realized until research into cleaner forms of energy, carried out in Denmark and Germany during the 1970s, produced mechanisms that were both more efficient and more powerful. Ideally suited to the flat, windswept polders of the Netherlands, the first Dutch turbines generated 40 kilowatts of electricity; output is now a beefier 600 kilowatts – enough for a single wind farm of 50 turbines to provide power to 6500 households.
Flevoland rises from the deep
Flevoland rises from the deep
Following the damming of the Zuider Zee and the formation of the IJsselmeer, the coastline east of Amsterdam was transformed by the creation of the Netherlands’ twelfth and newest province, Flevoland, which was reclaimed from the sea in two major phases. Drained in the early 1930s, the Noordoostpolder was the first major chunk of land to be salvaged and during the process two old Zuider Zee islands – Urk and Schokland – were joined to the mainland. The original aims of the Noordoostpolder scheme were predominantly agricultural, with the polder providing 500 square kilometres of new farmland, which the government handed out to prospective smallholders. Yet it soon became apparent that there were issues: very few trees were planted, so the land was subject to soil erosion, and both the polder and the adjacent mainland dried out and started to sink – problems that persist today. The Dutch did, however, learn from their mistakes when they came to drain the next large slice of Flevoland in the 1950s and 1960s: they created an encircling waterway, which successfully stopped the land from drying out and sinking, and the government tried hard to make the new polders more attractive to potential settlers, planting mini-forests and setting aside parkland. Together, these two newer polders, the Zuidelijk Flevoland and Oostelijk Flevoland, now form one large chunk of reclaimed land in front of the old shoreline, effectively a polder-island that comprises the bulk of Flevoland. The new polders were also used to house urban over spill with the creation of two new medium-sized towns, Almere and Lelystad, the latter named after Cornelis Lely (1854–1929), the pioneering engineer who had the original idea for the Zuider Zee scheme.