Offshore wind energy projects are currently restricted to the exclusive economic zones of coastal States. Recent advances in technology are raising the prospect of utilising excellent wind resources on the high seas.
Using a global geo-spatial model we identify potential resource areas for this. In the shallow water case for bottom fixed foundations the largest locations are found on the Mascarene Plateau in the Indian Ocean and the Grand Banks in the North Atlantic. The deep water case for floating platforms identifies the largest regions on the Grand Banks/Flemish Cap and Rockall Bank/Hatton Ridge, both in the North Atlantic. The overall legal framework for wind energy projects on the high seas is the United NationsConvention in the Law of the Sea. Flag states will play a central regulatory role for high seas wind energy developments. There is the danger that flags of convenience might evolve and unduly undercut environmental and safety standards that are in place for projects on the territorial seaand EEZ. Such abuse of high seas freedom could compromise the UNCLOS principle of ‘due regard’. Marine spatial planning approaches and the establishment of cooperative mechanisms, led by the IMO, could safeguard against such potential misappropriation.