Getting The Best Out Of The Worst

“Every disadvantage has its advantage” – Johan Cruijff. The famous Dutch footballer and coach, Cruijff, had a way of telling it like it is – the typical Dutch view. He looked for opportunities to learn and gain from problems. Just as the Netherlands does on a broader scale, for instance developing a way to energize the tide through the Oosterschelde barrier – matching flood control with CO2 free tidal energizing.

Oosterschelde barrier

Oosterschelde barrier

Maintaining a balance with the sea

Flood control is essential for the Netherlands, situated on the edge of the North Sea. Dikes, dunes and storm surge barriers are an indispensable part of Dutch life. Two-thirds of the country lies below sea level and vulnerable to flooding. Holland’s struggles to control this danger are as old as its history; over the centuries we became very good at it. So much so that nowadays the Dutch are internationally renowned for their expertise in keeping things dry. Many countries around the world faced with the escalating dangers of flooding engage Dutch engineering companies and contractors to help keep their populations and cities safe.

Painful lessons – disaster in 1953

It took some time to sustain Holland’s urban delta, the estuaries of the rivers Rhine, Meuse and Scheldt have been flooding over the centuries. But the major and most dreadful disaster in modern times came from sea in 1953. A storm surge overwhelmed large parts of the province of Zeeland, as well as some of South Holland and North Brabant. About ten thousand homes and buildings were destroyed, nearly fifty thousand more were severely damaged; two thousand people were killed, seventy thousand people evacuated; and thirty thousand cows, pigs, sheep and horses drowned.

Solving the problem – the Delta Works

Within a month after the disaster on the night of Saturday 31 January and morning of Sunday 1 February 1953 the Dutch government made the decision  to undertake the ‘Delta Works’, an extensive infrastructural project to shorten the coastline of the Netherlands – and thus make it less complex to defend it against floods.

One of the largest and most ambitious projects within the Delta Works was the Oosterschelde surge barrier. It took from 1960 up to 1986 to build it.

Getting smart

The 9-kilometer-long barrier was originally intended as a closed dam, but this posed a threat to the fragile marine ecosystem on the inland side of the dam. In due time the Dutch got smart. They supplied the dam with doors that usually remain open, but under dangerous weather conditions they close. This way saltwater marine life behind the dam is preserved and fishing can continue, which is economically important for the province Zeeland. Their famous oysters and mussels are still on the menu nowadays in Europe’s top restaurants.

Energizing the tide

And so, as it goes with the Dutch practice of getting the best out of the worst, when Dutch engineers developed a way to energize the tide through the Oosterschelde barrier. In 2015 Torcado installed 5 turbines within it, making use of ebb and flood (4 times a day). The turbines have a total capacity of generating 1.2 Megawatt, which is enough to provide 1,000 plus households with all the electricity they need in a year.

Sustainable Urban Delta

The Dutch have the character and attitude of reinvention. Its people have embraced new ideas and innovation, with an ethos of ‘boldly going where none has gone before’ and ‘making things happen. We see it as crucial for economic growth, but moreover that it improves the well-being of society as a whole.  Still, we strive to instil integrated approaches and holistic vision in our industries, knowledge institutes and citizens toward finding innovative solutions within high-tech, logistics and agriculture to further secure the Netherlands leading international position in innovation and sustainability.