Windpark Fryslân: The World’s Largest Freshwater Wind Farm

World’s Largest Freshwater Wind Farm Annotated

Windpark Fryslân, the world’s largest freshwater wind farm in the Netherlands, powers 500,000 homes and contributes 1.2 percent to the national electricity consumption. Despite its construction challenges, the project has brought ecological benefits and introduced new recreational opportunities like the Windmill Cup sailing race. (Satellite image of Windpark Fryslân captured on July 8, 2023, by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8.)

Windpark Fryslân can produce enough electricity to power about half a million homes in the Netherlands.

Windpark Fryslân, a leading-edge wind energy installation in the Netherlands, is capable of producing sufficient electricity to power approximately half a million homes. With a history rooted in wind power, it is perhaps unsurprising that the Dutch have created this modern, world-class facility. Comprising 89 wind turbines, Windpark Fryslân is the largest freshwater wind farm globally, and its unique hexagonal arrangement is a testament to Dutch ingenuity.

Windpark Fryslân’s Unique Design

In the image above, acquired by Landsat 8’s Operational Land Imager (OLI) on July 8, 2023, Windpark Fryslân’s precisely spaced turbines are seen rising out of Lake IJssel. Their arrangement in a hexagon shape is intended to minimize how much the installation obstructs the view of the horizon. The 32-kilometer-long (20-mile-long) Afsluitdijk, which provides flood protection and separates the lake from the Wadden Sea, is also prominent in the image.

Power Generation Capacity

The wind farm started its operation in the fall of 2021, with an annual capacity to generate 1.5 terawatt-hours. This production translates to about 1.2 percent of the total electricity consumption in the Netherlands or enough to energize around 500,000 households. In the subsequent year, 2022, the installation generated 1.236 terawatt-hours of electricity.

Construction Challenges and Solutions

Building Windpark Fryslân in Lake IJssel presented unique difficulties, as acknowledged by Van Oord, part of the consortium responsible for the construction. A major constraint was the size of ships that could be used to transport construction materials and turbine components to the site. The vessels had to both fit through the locks in the dike and operate in the shallow waters of the lake. Furthermore, the installation of 130-meter (430 feet) diameter rotors required finding windows of relatively calm conditions amidst the area’s natural windiness.

Ecological Impact and Recreational Opportunities

Adjacent to one of the dike’s locksets at Kornwerderzand, an artificial island initially created for use as a construction platform now functions as a nature reserve and bird sanctuary. Although the island only covers 2 hectares (5 acres), it is surrounded by 25 hectares (60 acres) of shallow water serving as a fish habitat.

Alongside this new power source and wildlife habitat, the Dutch have discovered fresh recreational activities associated with the wind project. This October, Windpark Fryslân will host the Windmill Cup, a sailing race that navigates through the turbines.

NASA Earth Observatory image by Wanmei Liang, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey.

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