A few years ago, Maarten van Dijk went jogging by an old windmill near his home in Abcoude (Utrecht, Netherlands) and was intrigued by the half-abandoned building.
Before long, he had become caretaker of the historic structure (under a leasing agreement with a foundation that owns 23 mills in the area), taking classes to learn to operate it and renovating the home that fills its base.
Beginning in the early 1500s the Dutch built windmills to help shape their country- to pump water out of areas below sea level- and while Van Dijk’s mill is no longer used for land drainage (it was replaced by more modern technology in the 1950s), it is still operational. With his formal training, Van Dijk can “run the mill” – adding sails to the wooden structure to catch the wind.
He is part of a long Dutch tradition of apprentices who learn the trade with first-hand experience and who help to push the technology forward.
On the second Saturday in May, the Dutch celebrate an iconic national structure – the windmill – like these historic ones at Zaanse Schans near Amsterdam. With hundreds of windmills across the country, many sites use the day to demonstrate how windmills work and host art exhibits. But the concept of using wind power isn’t just a historical anecdote – this renewable energy is experiencing a boom, and by 2050 is predicted to provide one-third of the world’s electricity.
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