Sail Electric Interview with The Eco News


Posted 1 year ago

Wayne Peters is founder of Sail Electric and the North Devon Marine Project as well as an ocean advocate for the Ocean Conservation Trust and ambassador for environmental program The Green Blue.

Working side by side, Sail Electric deliver sustainable sailing solutions using proven green tech, and the NDMP serves to raise awareness and educate about our fragile ocean environment that needs protection. Sail Electric recently modernised the North Devon Marine Project’s R&D vessel Nazca and she sails with a leave no trace policy, powered only by nature, capturing scientific and regeneration data. She is a shining example of what is possible with a focus on reaching net zero in the leisure marine sector. EcoNews talked with Wayne to find out some more

How did the North Devon Marine Project come about – was there a lightbulb moment that pushed you into action?

I had been involved in clean energy programs for a decade prior, but it wasn’t until I became involved with Emily Penn, and seeing her passion for the ocean it really clicked. I have sailed, surfed, kayaked my whole life. What we do on land is highly relevant to our ocean health. I think the lightbulb moment was combining my passion for watersports, with a passion for clean energy, and the need to highlight our connection to the ocean. North Devon in a UNESCO Biosphere reserve, designed to be an example of what should be, and my home. It all started to make sense.

Tell us about the marine conservation projects you are part of and the role you play

I’m an Advocate for the Ocean Conservation Trust, a British Divers Marine Mammal medic and an Ambassador for both 5 Gyres Ocean Plastic Research and the Green Blue which is the RYA and British Marine environmental program. I’m at their service, and collectively through various projects, we can share our findings from surveys, rescues, on social media and with talks and discussion with industry and academia and about my journey, together with the realisations I’ve had to date, we can collectively increase Ocean Literacy.

Who are Sail Electric and how does the NDMP and this business fit together? Are there collective goals?

Sail Electric is a commercial enterprise for the decarbonisation of maritime. Conversions of the legacy fleet to electric alongside design, supply and guidance to boatbuilders ensures every solar panel or motor system installed helps to counter the negative impact we have had on the climate. The North Devon Marine Project is my journey behind all this. I am pushing the envelope to discover exactly what it takes to be truly green on the blue with collaborators. The project is research lead, NDMP can help change a mindset by leading by example so Sail Electric and other commercial enterprises can gain from the experience, and share that insight to their audiences with real world feedback. It is an attempt to find the balance between economic growth and sustainable development.

Explain about Nazca as the NDMP boat? Is she a prime example of an off-grid sailing yacht and what do you do with her?

Nazca is an example of what could be done to sail with a leave no trace policy, not just at sea, but the maintenance on land. To meet the expectation there are compromises we have to make, as clean technology, and a change in methodology, catches up with our ultimate objective of doing no harm to planet earth, or the life that lives on her. I didn’t know if it was possible to meet schedules, manage passage plans, or be safe and comfortable at sea without a diesel engine on board. The only way to know, and to be truly honest with sharing the findings, was to go out there without diesel. So we did. I also didn’t want her to sail just for this reason, so over the term I’ve collected various science equipment to help raise awareness of our impact on the ocean. From underwater drones, to micro plastic samplers, as we sail, the technology data is captured for climate change initiatives, as well as environmental data, to help us combat the biodiversity crisis. She’s a floating research platform for the everyday sailor.

What has any marine research shown that you’ve conducted ? Do you have any data from sailing expeditions and is there more to come?

As we start to hone our skills in exploration, it’s clear we have a massive plastic problem – what we find on beaches is just the tip of the iceberg. We are attempting to share positivity, seeing very little accumulation of plastic in the marine conservation zone around Lundy was highly positive, but this is the case at this time of year. Or, were we looking closely enough. We gather minute by minute data from the systems on board, and with continued support we can further analyse this data to levels that can create strategies around helping others to go green. There’s plenty more to come, and what we are seeing at the moment is a rapid change in ocean acidification, plastic accumulation and biodiversity loss. It is in all our interests to conduct citizen sciences to add to the data pool.

For anyone who owns (or wants to own) a sailing boat, what are your recommendations to really make a difference? Is there an order for green tech to be installed?

Slow down. One of the most profound insights with running electric is how much extra energy you need to gain a tiny amount of speed, the resistance of the hull builds at a square of the speed when the hull speed is around 7 knots, it requires 8 kW of power to move the boat and a very economic speed is somewhere around 5 knots where you need 2 kW to move the boat in flat water. The increase of power from 5 kW to 10 kW only yields a knot of more boat speed and the next 5 kW increment only 0,5 knots. The conservation of energy is key to creating a synergy between us and nature. Not just for propulsion, for every watt saved, the energy from a solar panel is better utilised, and the less demand you need from a diesel generator for example. 

How do you achieve a truly off-grid lifestyle and no impact sailing practices? What are the main elements?

I’ve lived off grid for 10 years on land, and now with operating Nazca, it’s quite simply accessing the knowledge and experience in order to save, conserve and optimise energy. Everyone needs to start somewhere, and by monitoring your day to day demands, and through knowledge of optimising yourself and your home, whether on land or at sea,in order to match the available natural resources, the journey to self and clean sustainability begins. Advising a customer to heat water with solar, or run a washing machine in the middle of the day, when the batteries are recharged, and there’s otherwise nowhere for the solar to go, is just common sense if you think about it.

Can we achieve net zero?

I don’t think that’s a relevant question. The question should be when can we reach net zero, as the objective has to be going carbon negative. Net zero is only part of the solution.

How do you educate people and spread the word about what you do?

Through sharing experience, on both what works, but also what does not, to an audience that we are finding within our network who is much more open to learn since the pandemic is key. Whether it’s through interviews such as this, or social media, or real world demonstrations, but not just from us who work in the field specifically. Real world feedback from Sail Electric customers as they begin their journey that inspires others. And critically realising that what you may have learnt about the ocean in that media piece, might change the way you go shopping reminds us that everything is linked. Every action counts, if we look to help change a mindset, that we see exponential positive change happen throughout.  

Wayne Peters

What are your plans for 2023 to make a difference?

Much more of the above, closer relationships to highlight specific messages that inspire change from the core. Every time I write, every time I talk, I improve the method in getting the message across, and potentially increase the impact it could have after I’ve left. You never really know what impression you make, we are all different. Some things resonate, some things don’t, but what we all know deep inside is the difference between right and wrong. And what we know for sure is that we are all in the same boat.