Interview with Ash Penley

Ash Penley, MSc. Chem., is a Low Carbon and Renewable Energy Expert, and inventor & founder of ZOEX Wave Energy concept, an innovative wave energy device which aims to replace diesel generators used in the aquaculture sector. Ash had 15 years’ experience in the oil & gas sector as HSE Lead before converting her skill set to marine renewables and Net Zero where she has developed three patents and became the Winner of AccelerateHER; Clean-Tech and Climate, Unlocking Ambition, Young Professionals Green Energy Award and nominee for Most Powerful Woman by Powergen Magazine.

What inspired you to become involved in aquaculture?

I developed a clean energy technology, called ZOEX, named after my two children, Zoe and Alex. ZOEX aims to replace the diesel generators used on feed barges, to help the aquaculture sector reach their net zero targets.

ZOEX Wave Energy concept

Briefly describe your aquaculture career

Last year I carried out a product-market fit with Scottish Enterprise funds I won from the Unlocking Ambition program and found out that the best market for ZOEX Wave Energy Convertor is the aquaculture sector. ZOEX meets the power requirements on the feed-barges which are used to pump food to fish stocks. As well as generating clean energy from waves, ZOEX would enhance the pitch and roll stability of the barge thus increase safety of personnel, it would also provide impact protection from vessels as it uses a Yokohama fender as a wave absorber. We have engaged with Scottish Sea Farms who are committed to reducing their greenhouse gas emissions at their sea farm operations, and they welcomed our idea. This is how I started my career in the aquaculture sector.

Which individuals or organisations in aquaculture have you found particularly inspirational?

Anne Anderson, Sustainability Director of Scottish Sea Farms has been inspirational with her friendly work ethic and ambition to bring real sustainable solutions to the sector.

How important has networking been to your career?

Networking has been very important and I have to thank Sarah Riddle from SAIC for that, as she has invited me to many different networking events and forums.

During your career, have you noticed inequalities in the sector, be it in policies or culture? If yes, what actions do you think would best address those issues?

Nope, never noticed.

What is your proudest aquaculture-related achievement to date?

Winning two Government funds, SE SMART: SCOTLAND & CEFAS Seafood Innovation fund, for ZOEX for Aquaculture Demo Project. Winning Government innovation funds are not easy...

What do you think will be the key drivers/areas for innovation for Scottish aquaculture in the next decade?

The aquaculture sector is paramount to provide protein for humanity in the future. Fish stocks are depleting and land is getting scarce for land animal farms. For that reason, the aquaculture sector is projected to reach global market size of  £198billion by 2027. From 1990 to 2018 this was a 527% rise in global aquaculture production, according to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) while production from wild-capture fisheries increased by just 14% over the same period. While the demand for farmed fish is increasing, the availability of inshore sheltered sites  are declining. Therefore, the sector is moving to offshore aquaculture. DNV forecasts up to 10% of aquaculture to move offshore by 2050 - equivalent to 4m tonnes of finfish produced globally per year. This offers improved wave resource, larger sites with more automation and higher power requirements and significant opportunity for growth. 

Sustainability and Net Zero targets are forcing producers to find new ways to power their farms. Salmon Scotland has set a target of 2045 to have all aquaculture operations powered by renewable generation, while Norway has a similar target for 2035.

Extrapolating current inshore power consumption implies a Total Addressable Market for ZOEX in offshore aquaculture between 3000 and 9000 15kW units by 2050 - total capacity between 45MW and 150MW and a market value between £180 and £600 million.

Wave resource levels are likely to be suitable for ZOEX on most of these sites and the price is expected to be competitive with other renewable energy options for these applications.

What’s equally important is to decarbonise the vessels’ operations for the sector. ZOEX can generate hydrogen from seawater on the feed-barges, vessels can re-fuel from the feed barge whilst in field and the side product from the electrolysis process, oxygen, can be used to improve the health of the fish stock.

In my opinion, a clean energy system combined with hydrogen generation on board the fish farm is the key driver for innovation in the next decade.

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