Spotlight Innovation

Humans of METSTRADE with Wayne Peters

Kim Hollamby
Tuesday, 30 May 2023

Sail Electric Founder, Wayne Peters, outlines how his company is making e-propulsion viable for a wide range of yachting applications and gearing up for practical trials of hydrogen generation and use.

What attracted you to working in the marine industry?

“I’ve surfed sailed and kayaked my whole life since I was young and joined the training ship Royalist for three tours. More recently I’ve owned two yachts in succession and almost immediately converted each one to electric propulsion after acquiring it. I’ve navigated 5000nm so far purely on electric and am about to embark on a race to the Azores and return with a fully converted 15m yacht. I found that once you go electric, you can never go back!

Professionally I had been working in the field of remote location energy systems for nearly 20 years. I’ve now been able to use my knowledge and experience of off-grid technology, design, and methodology to impact the betterment of the ocean.

Meeting with, and then working for, ocean advocate Emily Penn, provided the inspiration to commence a journey to broaden my knowledge of what we can do to improve the global environment. Emily planned and ran the eXXpedition round the world voyage with an all-female crew to study the impact of plastic pollution on environmental health. I was able to assist her with the battery and solar panel installation on the eXXpedition team’s 72ft yacht; eight months later I had rewired the whole boat and got them on their way, ready to set sail around the world. That was just before COVID-19 hit.

Working within the off-grid energy sector I was covering so many applications – everything from telecoms to farms, houses, commercial buildings, and boats. The enforced pause in activity over the pandemic provided the opportunity to focus on one thing. Since then, I have been working exclusively within the marine sector and use that opportunity to share knowledge of what we must all do to care for our oceans.

My sailing background also means that I can think beyond the technology of sustainable energy and advise customers more broadly on better ways of moving their boats around by tuning into the available natural resources such as solar, wind and tide.

Tell us about your business?

Sail Electric is based in the UK and operates predominantly out of two bases in the south and southwest. We design, and distribute marine renewable energy, electric propulsion, power delivery and monitoring systems – acting as a consultancy in terms of helping our customers understand the best ways of evolving to 100 per cent electric. By taking best advantage of wind, current and solar, with advanced monitoring and control at your fingertips you can extend what is possible from the alternative propulsions systems that are already available.

We have a close working relationship with Finnish electric propulsion specialist manufacturer Oceanvolt as its northern Europe agent we have been undertaking a series of electric propulsion conversions on everything from small fishing boats, cruising yachts under 10m, to expedition yachts and Open 40 racing yachts.

Although there are incredible advances with new technologies there’s still a lot of work to do to recreate the levels of autonomy that we we’ve come to expect from fossil fuels. Traditional sailing skills, getting the best out of the rig and optimising power regeneration all have their part to play. In any electric propulsion conversion proposal, we may also recommend changes to the anchoring gear (to ensure a safe wait against an adverse tide) and upgrades to sailing systems, in combination with the replacement of the internal combustion engine.

Our business exists to help customers identify whether new propulsion and energy technologies can work for them. We offer a combination of technological expertise and ocean advocacy. In identifying ways of minimising environmental impact with customers’ boats we believe we also open their eyes to thinking about wider impacts ashore too – the ideology extends beyond the skipper to the operator, client, and observer.

I also run a not-for-profit organisation called the North Devon Marine Project, which is involved in a wide range of environmental and energy initiatives. One of our projects is examining the viability of hydrogen generation and use. We are planning to fit a fuel cell in my Oceanvolt ServoProp-powered Contessa 34 sailing yacht. To generate the fuel, and inspire the ambition, we have a 0.5MWe solar array behind our workshop in North Devon from which we plan to electrolyse hydrogen for local use.

What interesting trends are you seeing in the industry?

Hydrogen is going to become available for onboard energy requirements, whether via small scale proof of concept projects or from big commercial programmes for mainstream shipping where the benefits will trickle down in time to the leisure user.

Improved hull efficiency driven by yacht design and even hull coating technology will become much more of a focus. We know about the potential of this already from the likes of David Kendall of Optima Electric Yachts, and Nigel Irens who has been designing highly efficient displacement boats for many years. Similarly, there must be more focus on optimising sailing rigs and how best to use them. There’s real impetus now for lots of people to collaborate using their different specialisms to create something beautiful and efficient together.

There’s a sweet spot with power regeneration that relies on a certain level of speed through the water. Getting the boat to reach that speed more consistently and combining that with efficient regeneration systems like Oceanvolt’s variable pitch ServoProp is key to making alternative propulsion viable for many more applications beyond short-range passages.

As electric propulsion, larger battery storage and renewable energy generation onboard become more commonplace, I can also see a time when the moored boats will be able to supply power back ashore to make marinas more sustainable. We already have this tech in place and will be running some trials around that concept.

What is the importance of METSTRADE to your business?

METSTRADE is opening the industry’s eyes to what is possible with electric propulsion and sustainable energy. Last year we saw a large influx of new alternate propulsion and clean energy products in Amsterdam. Being aware of emerging technologies and equipment enables our company to provide the best consultancy advice and answer the many questions we receive from customers about any given application.

How do you plan a visit to METSTRADE?

Our starting point is to support the Oceanvolt stand as a key partner, combining our specialist knowledge of energy management with Oceanvolt’s expertise in drive systems. For the next edition of METSTRADE our plans will include the introduction of two new Oceanvolt product lines that will create a lot of excitement – the HighPower ServoProp 25 for higher power thrust and regeneration and the AXC 12kW, 24kW and 36kW modular shaft drive systems. The largest of these offers equivalent torque and performance to a 140hp engine, making it highly attractive to builders of larger yachts.

Which METSTRADE areas and activities do you most look forward to?

The DAME Awards is always very interesting, and I like to view the nominated products on display. It’s also great to see more and more interest in the panel discussions happening around e-propulsion technologies, noting the questions being asked and detecting shifts in sentiment. I’ve noticed the direction of travel has moved from ‘is it possible this stuff can work?’ to ‘which system do I need?’ – which is very encouraging. We can only build on our experience. If we have the ethos of sustainability foremost in the minds and given the profound leaps happening in technology, our friends, followers and entire network will succeed with a collective ambition for good.


Read more from Humans of METSTRADE

Ana Čalić (Navela) Marieke de Boer (IMPACD Boats)
Rory Coase (Coase Design)


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