UK: Entitlement To Offshore Wind Farms

Last Updated: 1 August 2019
Article by Max Van Drunen


By 2023 the Dutch government intends to generate 4,450MW from wind parks at sea. As the current capacity is about 1,500MW, several wind farms will have to be built in the North Sea. A great deal of attention is being paid to public law aspects of the construction and control of offshore wind farms. Property law aspects remain somewhat neglected. Who is the owner of wind turbines at sea? This article deals with entitlement to offshore wind farms.

Legal zones in the North Sea

The location of an offshore wind farm impacts its legal status. The North Sea is divided into various maritime zones, each with its own legal regime. This legal zoning is based on international law as contained in the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The following maritime zones are of importance for wind farms: the territorial sea and the exclusive economic zone (EEZ).

Territorial sea

The sovereignty of the Netherlands extends over the seabed and subsoil of the territorial sea, namely up to 12 nm (22.22 km) measured from the low-water mark. In the territorial sea, the Dutch Civil Code applies. This determines that the seabed of the territorial sea belongs to the Dutch state.

Exclusive Economic Zone

The EEZ is the zone that starts at the border of the territorial sea. In connection with the proximity of other North Sea states, the EEZ does not extend to the maximum 200 nm from the low-water mark allowed under UNCLOS, but the external border is at the outer limit of the continental shelf part allocated to the Netherlands. This external border was established in boundary delimitation treaties with Belgium, Germany and the UK.

In the EEZ, the Dutch Civil Code does not apply. Under UNCLOS, insofar as is relevant to offshore wind farms, in the EEZ the Netherlands has:

  • sovereign rights (a) for the purpose of exploiting and managing the seabed and its subsoil and (b) with regard to other activities for economic exploitation such as the generation of wind energy;
  • jurisdiction with regard to the construction and use of installations and facilities; and
  • the exclusive right to build and to authorize and arrange construction, activities and use of installations and facilities such as wind farms for economic purposes.

The two pictures show the territorial sea, the EEZ, the existing wind farms and the designated locations. They also show where the Dutch Civil Code and the Law of the Sea Convention apply.

Ownership in the offshore setting

This section discusses ownership of offshore wind turbines. In this case, a distinction is made between the territorial sea and the EEZ.

Territorial sea

The Dutch Civil Code applies in the territorial sea. Here, the same rules apply as for wind turbines on land. Under the Dutch Civil Code, ownership of the land includes structures with permanent foundations (vertical accession). A wind turbine is a structure with permanent foundations. The seabed of the territorial sea is owned by the state. This means that a wind turbine built in the territorial sea is owned by the state. By establishing a right of superficies, under the law of property the state can grant entitlement to the wind turbines to a third party.

Exclusive Economic Zone

The Dutch Civil Code does not apply in the EEZ. The rule that the seabed of the sea belongs to the Dutch state does not apply. Neither do civil law definitions in the Dutch Civil Code such as moveable property, immoveable property, specification, accession and registered property apply in the EEZ. In the EEZ the rules of UNCLOS apply. UNCLOS does not govern who is the owner of an installation or facility in the EEZ. Therefore it is not possible to designate an owner based on UNCLOS. As indicated, UNCLOS does grant the Netherlands (i) sovereign rights for the purpose of activities for generating wind energy and (ii) the exclusive right to authorize use of wind farms. This authorization is the legal basis for the operator's entitlement to use wind turbines in the EEZ.

The sovereign rights and authorization are not property rights within the meaning of the Dutch Civil Code. The question arises: on the basis of which rules can it be determined who the owner is of wind turbines in the EEZ?

At the time that the wind turbine's components are in the Netherlands, before they are shipped to the location in the EEZ where the wind turbine is being built, these components are moveable property. If the wind turbines are assembled on the mainland or in the territorial sea, ownership of the wind turbine is acceded through ownership of the land. The owner of the components then loses their property right. Under Dutch Private International Law it can be argued that the property right of the components continues to exist if the wind turbine is assembled in the EEZ. This is explained below.

The components are shipped to a legal no man's land, where the Dutch Civil Code does not apply. Neither do civil law definitions in the Dutch Civil Code, such as moveable property, immoveable property, specification, accession and registered property, apply in the EEZ, as noted previously. If an object is transferred from one state to another state, under Dutch Private International Law, rights obtained or established under the law of property remain vested in it (Section 130, Book 10 of the Dutch Civil Code). If a component for a wind turbine is transferred from the Netherlands to another state, this means that under Dutch Private International Law, the property right remains vested in the component. If the components are shipped to the EEZ, strictly speaking Section 130 of Book 10 of the Dutch Civil Code does not apply, as the components are not brought to another state, but to an area that does not belong to the territory of a state.

If a Dutch court should assess who the owner is of the constituent components of the wind turbine, it is the author's opinion that - in the absence of any other points of reference - a natural consequence is to analogically apply Section 130 of Book 10 of the Dutch Civil Code.

As there is no regulation in the EEZ from which it is evident that the property right ceases to exist if the components are assembled (which constitutes the wind turbine), it must be assumed that the property right of the components continues to exist. Therefore, the owner of the components is the owner of the wind turbine.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

To print this article, all you need is to be registered on

Click to Login as an existing user or Register so you can print this article.

In association with
Related Topics
Related Articles
Related Video
Up-coming Events Search
Font Size:
Mondaq on Twitter
Mondaq Free Registration
Gain access to Mondaq global archive of over 375,000 articles covering 200 countries with a personalised News Alert and automatic login on this device.
Mondaq News Alert (some suggested topics and region)
Select Topics
Registration (please scroll down to set your data preferences)

Mondaq Ltd requires you to register and provide information that personally identifies you, including your content preferences, for three primary purposes (full details of Mondaq’s use of your personal data can be found in our Privacy and Cookies Notice):

  • To allow you to personalize the Mondaq websites you are visiting to show content ("Content") relevant to your interests.
  • To enable features such as password reminder, news alerts, email a colleague, and linking from Mondaq (and its affiliate sites) to your website.
  • To produce demographic feedback for our content providers ("Contributors") who contribute Content for free for your use.

Mondaq hopes that our registered users will support us in maintaining our free to view business model by consenting to our use of your personal data as described below.

Mondaq has a "free to view" business model. Our services are paid for by Contributors in exchange for Mondaq providing them with access to information about who accesses their content. Once personal data is transferred to our Contributors they become a data controller of this personal data. They use it to measure the response that their articles are receiving, as a form of market research. They may also use it to provide Mondaq users with information about their products and services.

Details of each Contributor to which your personal data will be transferred is clearly stated within the Content that you access. For full details of how this Contributor will use your personal data, you should review the Contributor’s own Privacy Notice.

Please indicate your preference below:

Yes, I am happy to support Mondaq in maintaining its free to view business model by agreeing to allow Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors whose Content I access
No, I do not want Mondaq to share my personal data with Contributors

Also please let us know whether you are happy to receive communications promoting products and services offered by Mondaq:

Yes, I am happy to received promotional communications from Mondaq
No, please do not send me promotional communications from Mondaq
Terms & Conditions (the Website) is owned and managed by Mondaq Ltd (Mondaq). Mondaq grants you a non-exclusive, revocable licence to access the Website and associated services, such as the Mondaq News Alerts (Services), subject to and in consideration of your compliance with the following terms and conditions of use (Terms). Your use of the Website and/or Services constitutes your agreement to the Terms. Mondaq may terminate your use of the Website and Services if you are in breach of these Terms or if Mondaq decides to terminate the licence granted hereunder for any reason whatsoever.

Use of

To Use you must be: eighteen (18) years old or over; legally capable of entering into binding contracts; and not in any way prohibited by the applicable law to enter into these Terms in the jurisdiction which you are currently located.

You may use the Website as an unregistered user, however, you are required to register as a user if you wish to read the full text of the Content or to receive the Services.

You may not modify, publish, transmit, transfer or sell, reproduce, create derivative works from, distribute, perform, link, display, or in any way exploit any of the Content, in whole or in part, except as expressly permitted in these Terms or with the prior written consent of Mondaq. You may not use electronic or other means to extract details or information from the Content. Nor shall you extract information about users or Contributors in order to offer them any services or products.

In your use of the Website and/or Services you shall: comply with all applicable laws, regulations, directives and legislations which apply to your Use of the Website and/or Services in whatever country you are physically located including without limitation any and all consumer law, export control laws and regulations; provide to us true, correct and accurate information and promptly inform us in the event that any information that you have provided to us changes or becomes inaccurate; notify Mondaq immediately of any circumstances where you have reason to believe that any Intellectual Property Rights or any other rights of any third party may have been infringed; co-operate with reasonable security or other checks or requests for information made by Mondaq from time to time; and at all times be fully liable for the breach of any of these Terms by a third party using your login details to access the Website and/or Services

however, you shall not: do anything likely to impair, interfere with or damage or cause harm or distress to any persons, or the network; do anything that will infringe any Intellectual Property Rights or other rights of Mondaq or any third party; or use the Website, Services and/or Content otherwise than in accordance with these Terms; use any trade marks or service marks of Mondaq or the Contributors, or do anything which may be seen to take unfair advantage of the reputation and goodwill of Mondaq or the Contributors, or the Website, Services and/or Content.

Mondaq reserves the right, in its sole discretion, to take any action that it deems necessary and appropriate in the event it considers that there is a breach or threatened breach of the Terms.

Mondaq’s Rights and Obligations

Unless otherwise expressly set out to the contrary, nothing in these Terms shall serve to transfer from Mondaq to you, any Intellectual Property Rights owned by and/or licensed to Mondaq and all rights, title and interest in and to such Intellectual Property Rights will remain exclusively with Mondaq and/or its licensors.

Mondaq shall use its reasonable endeavours to make the Website and Services available to you at all times, but we cannot guarantee an uninterrupted and fault free service.

Mondaq reserves the right to make changes to the services and/or the Website or part thereof, from time to time, and we may add, remove, modify and/or vary any elements of features and functionalities of the Website or the services.

Mondaq also reserves the right from time to time to monitor your Use of the Website and/or services.


The Content is general information only. It is not intended to constitute legal advice or seek to be the complete and comprehensive statement of the law, nor is it intended to address your specific requirements or provide advice on which reliance should be placed. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers make no representations about the suitability of the information contained in the Content for any purpose. All Content provided "as is" without warranty of any kind. Mondaq and/or its Contributors and other suppliers hereby exclude and disclaim all representations, warranties or guarantees with regard to the Content, including all implied warranties and conditions of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. To the maximum extent permitted by law, Mondaq expressly excludes all representations, warranties, obligations, and liabilities arising out of or in connection with all Content. In no event shall Mondaq and/or its respective suppliers be liable for any special, indirect or consequential damages or any damages whatsoever resulting from loss of use, data or profits, whether in an action of contract, negligence or other tortious action, arising out of or in connection with the use of the Content or performance of Mondaq’s Services.


Mondaq may alter or amend these Terms by amending them on the Website. By continuing to Use the Services and/or the Website after such amendment, you will be deemed to have accepted any amendment to these Terms.

These Terms shall be governed by and construed in accordance with the laws of England and Wales and you irrevocably submit to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England and Wales to settle any dispute which may arise out of or in connection with these Terms. If you live outside the United Kingdom, English law shall apply only to the extent that English law shall not deprive you of any legal protection accorded in accordance with the law of the place where you are habitually resident ("Local Law"). In the event English law deprives you of any legal protection which is accorded to you under Local Law, then these terms shall be governed by Local Law and any dispute or claim arising out of or in connection with these Terms shall be subject to the non-exclusive jurisdiction of the courts where you are habitually resident.

You may print and keep a copy of these Terms, which form the entire agreement between you and Mondaq and supersede any other communications or advertising in respect of the Service and/or the Website.

No delay in exercising or non-exercise by you and/or Mondaq of any of its rights under or in connection with these Terms shall operate as a waiver or release of each of your or Mondaq’s right. Rather, any such waiver or release must be specifically granted in writing signed by the party granting it.

If any part of these Terms is held unenforceable, that part shall be enforced to the maximum extent permissible so as to give effect to the intent of the parties, and the Terms shall continue in full force and effect.

Mondaq shall not incur any liability to you on account of any loss or damage resulting from any delay or failure to perform all or any part of these Terms if such delay or failure is caused, in whole or in part, by events, occurrences, or causes beyond the control of Mondaq. Such events, occurrences or causes will include, without limitation, acts of God, strikes, lockouts, server and network failure, riots, acts of war, earthquakes, fire and explosions.

By clicking Register you state you have read and agree to our Terms and Conditions