INTRODUCTIONThe current interest in the development of offshore wind farms is twofold. On the one hand it is the result of the new climate policy on the international as well as regional level. In the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change from 1992 the so-called Annex 1 countries agreed to reduce the emission of greenhouse gases. In the 1997 Kyoto Protocol of the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change it was explicitly agreed upon a reduction of overall emissions of such gases by at least 5 % below 1990 levels in the commitment period 2008 to 2012 . On the regional level, Member States of the European Community are confronted with Directive 2001/77/EC which aims at an increased use of renewable energy sources in electricity production. On the other hand onshore wind developers are confronted with problems such as civil complaints due to noise, size and appearance of such turbines; also wind tends to blow usually lesser onshore than offshore which causes profit and effectivity problems; finally, there is a space problem. Which European country may for example be able to erect a wind farm onshore consisting of hundreds of turbines without getting serious problems with national laws and the community as such? To produce on a profitable level, to circumvent national jurisdiction and to fulfil their international as well as regional obligations countries were forced to seek new solutions.
Many of the best wind sources lie offshore in open marine waters, some within but most beyond States’ territorial sea. While to date only two wind farms are truly operated under offshore conditions , offshore wind farms are likely to multiply during this decade because wind farms extending beyond territorial waters are starting to emerge .
Developers of offshore wind farms are therefore not only faced with technological challenges but also with legal and regulatory challenges, as a new legal framework needs to be established .
The following work will examine the currently existing legal framework upon its applicability and suitability in relation to offshore wind farms under international law here in particular under the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) . The focus will explicitly placed on UNCLOS. Some issues under international environmental law will be discussed as well, however, not in further detail.
The work will be split up in three parts which intends to cover the whole “lifespan” of such a farm. Part I deals with the construction and planning of an offshore wind farm; Part II shows upon interesting issues concerning the operation of such a farm; and Part III will discuss the issue of decommissioning.