Ash Penley, co-founder and CEO of ZOEX Power Ltd
Wave power, but not as we know it
We all know that the ocean is mighty powerful, but harnessing that power at scale has eluded the smartest of minds to date. Ash Penley certainly has a smart mind and she also has a product that is doing something quite remarkable with wave energy.
In essence, ZOEX is decentralising wave power and harnessing it for off grid purposes at sea.
The core technology that ZOEX is developing is the ActiveFenderTM, an innovative product that uses already-existing marine structures and turns them into clean energy devices. This is a very different approach to the typical wave energy design: ZOEX isn’t advocating for totally new infrastructure to generate energy, but rather is making use of things like offshore wind platforms, breakwaters and aquaculture fish farms. The ActiveFenderTM attaches to these structures and generates clean energy to power whatever is needed at that location, for example barges that dispenses food at an aquaculture fish farm.
Ash has come from a career in the oil and gas sector, so she is no stranger to managing complex technical teams and projects. Successful as she was, she realised that her skills could be adapted to a different sector.
She is also a very keen diver and has a passion for the ocean and the environment; there was a tension in her previous life that she couldn’t ignore, and she knew she had to find an alternative path that aligned with her desire for a greener future. A collaboration with her now co-founder, an experienced wave energy innovator, was where she channelled her passions for a new career.
Scotland is, she says, the right place for sustainable businesses. There is a collaborative atmosphere, support for green innovators and it has the experience in the oil and gas sector that can generate great transferability for net zero solutions.
Know your customer
The ZOEX team have done extensive market research to really understand what their customer wants and focused on six key things: (i) clean power, (ii) cost-effective and broadly comparative in cost to a diesel generator, (iii) easy to install, (iv) low maintenance, (v) robust, adaptable for storms and transportation at sea, and (vi) scalable to meet different power demands. They have adapted and developed their technology to meet these needs and have confidence in the product that they can scale effectively over the next few years.
Their early adopter customers are actively looking for solutions to help them achieve their net zero targets now. ZOEX’s solution is coming on the market just at the right time.
Ash’s Top Tips for a Net Zero Business Leader:
1. Have a vision
Ash has had years of experience in the oil and gas sector and knew that she could convert this expertise to the renewables sector. She had a vision to create a likeminded team that could drive forward on innovative renewables solutions and she knew she had the skills to attract financial support. She is clear about what she wants to create and that clarity translates persuasively to her audience.
2. And a plan
Ash and her team have completed the conceptual design and feasibility for their product, and have assembled a world class consortium of development partners. They are now seeking partners and investment to support the first pre commercial demonstration projects. Testing and commercialisation will take ZOEX Power to 2024, and then the focus shifts to sales. By 2030, the goal is to be assisting 50% of the aquaculture industry in their goals to reach net zero by virtue of adopting ZOEX’s technology.
3. Know your target market
There are many uses for ZOEX’s technology but the team have been laser focused on identifying their initial target market. The aquaculture industry has a need for power in off-grid locations and they have a goal to become less reliant on fossil fuels (i.e. diesel generators). ZOEX have product market fit and they’re located in the right geographical location (Scotland, where there is a big aquaculture industry) to make the right connections.
4. Work with complementary people
Tech development usually needs a team to see it from concept to viable product. Ash has built a great team that have very complementary skills so ZOEX can undertake the technological development, understand their customers’ requirements (e.g. how they use power and what their operations and maintenance requirements are), and how to build funding and sales momentum.
5. Be brave
Ash originally from Turkey, was living in the US for an expat assignment and moved back to Scotland in pursuit of her goals. She’s had an incredibly successful career but knew she had more to give than working for a large corporate. She inspires others without knowing she is doing it, simply by virtue of doing what she’s doing. And she’s proudly representing woman in innovation in a male dominated energy sector.