March 18, 2021
Nicola Douglas

Solar powered mission in NOVA - update

Following on from our previous news story about NOVA, here is an update, 13 months on:

Fedor Konyukhov is attempting the first solo crossing of the Pacific Ocean aboard a solar-powered catamaran NOVA. NOVA is an 11m ocean-class catamaran equipped with electric motors and flexible solar modules. The crossing will go from Chile (Concon) to Australia (Brisbane) – a total distance of around 9,000 miles and lasting up to 4 months.

The unique catamaran has been designed and is being built by the Rannoch Team in conjunction with our naval architect, Phil Morrison, who has previously designed all three of Fedor Konyukhov’s ocean rowing boats (the “Uralaz”, “Turgoyak”, and “AKROS”).  

Measuring devices will be installed aboard the catamaran to monitor the output of the solar modules and on-board batteries. The data retrieved will be given to the project’s technical partners, as well as being used for project “Albatross – a non-stop flight around the world on solar energy”.

During his crossing, Fedor Konyukhov will keep a video diary and make ecological observations of the ocean, keeping daily records about the presence of plastic waste in the ocean.

Dmitry Mramorov, the Chairman of the Board of Directors of SKB Кontur said: “Once more Fedor Konyukhov is faced with a daunting task – to cross two oceans, aboard a unique vessel, powered only by the energy of the sun. Not only will the journey once again push the boundaries of human capabilities, but it will also be an experiment – this time an ecological one. Fedor Konyukhov’s extraordinary accomplishments are attributed to determination, discipline, faith, experience and quality preparation. People like Fedor radically broaden the horizons of human possibilities and our perception of the world we live in. We fully support this project and hope that solar energy and Fedor Konyukhov will help bring this project to life”.

The total surface area of the primary solar modules, horizontally laid on the upper deck, is 51m2 with a peak output of 9 kilowatts. This is estimated to generate, in average conditions for the time and place of departure, 32 kilowatt hours (kWh) per day.

In addition, the surface area of the solar modules installed on the hulls and angled toward the horizon is 15 m2. This addition allows for an extra yield of 4kWh per day from the illuminated side.

Special cells on a flexible substrate were manufactured at the “Hevel” Scientific and Technical Centre in St. Petersburg. The task of these scientists was to make cells resistant to the corrosive aquatic environment and ultraviolet radiation and with the lowest possible weight.

“Today, Russian technology and our accumulated experience enable us to develop the most ambitious projects on water and in the air. One of the key aims for us as a manufacturer, is to develop effective solar solutions in the most strenuous conditions that can subsequently be mass produced and used in a wide variety of applications” said Igor Shakhrai, CEO of the “Hevel” company group.

In order to achieve the desired speed, the power consumption of the two electric motors is 1.5kW requiring a supply of 36 kWh to run 24 hours. In addition a battery capacity of 60 kWh allows for the motors to operate continuously for 40 hours, which will alleviate the negative impact of cloudy weather and cloud cover. In ideal conditions, the motors will be able to be run at a higher power level.

The NOVA solar powered catamaran goals:

Completing the first ever solo crossings of the Pacific Oceans using solar energy;

Testing Russian-made photovoltaic cells in marine conditions under constant use over a prolonged period;

Carrying out battery testing over a prolonged period while under a constant load. The results from solar cell testing from the catamaran project, including the long-term field tests, will be used by the Albatros project.

Working with leading Russian oceanographers and scientific institutions to monitor ecological factors such as pollution of the ocean by microplastics. The catamaran is fitted with a sea-water filter and Fedor Konyukhov will gather data daily throughout his journey.

Ecologically, unmanned oceanic vessels will be instrumental in monitoring pollution in the world’s oceans, as well as factors such as climate change and oceanic salinity.

The technological task: testing electric unmanned ocean craft technologies and solar modules as a power source.

Phil Morrison and Charlie Pitcher inspecting Nova in February 2021
Nova's beams being delivered to Rannoch HQ in March 2021
Visit from Fedor in late September 2021 to view progress

Fedor Konyukhov

It is worth noting that Fedor Konyukhov has significant experience with nautical expeditions. During his whole career, he has completed 5 solo circumnavigations and three oceanic crossings aboard a rowing boat:

1990-1991 The first solo journey in Russia’s history aboard the “Karaana” yacht (36 foot). Route: Sydney (Australia) – Cape Horn – Equator – Sydney. Time taken: 224 days.

1993-1994 – Second solo journey aboard the dual-mast ketch “Formosa” (56-foot). Route: Taiwan – Hong Kong – Singapore – Yemen (Port Aden) – Jeddah (Saudi Arabia) – Suez Canal – Gibraltar – Casablanca (Morocco) – Saint Lucia (Caribbean Islands) – Panama Canal – Honolulu (Hawaiian Islands) – Taiwan – city of Nakhodka (Russia).

1998 – Third solo journey as part of the race “Around Alone” aboard the yacht “International Humanitarian University” (60-feet). Route: USA – RSA – New Zealand – Cape Horn (Chile) – Uruguay – USA.

2002 Solo crossing of the Atlantic ocean aboard the rowboat “Uralaz” (7m). Route: Canary Islands (La Gomera) – Barbados. Time taken: 46 days.

2004-2005 Fourth solo journey aboard a the yacht “Trading Network “Alye Parusa” (85-foot). Route: Falmouth (England) – Hobart (Tasmania) – Falmouth (England).

2007 Fifth solo non-stop journey around Antarctica for the “Antarctica Cup” Trophy aboard the yacht “Trading Network “Alye Parusa” (85-foot). Albany (Australia) – Cape Horn – Cape of Good Hope – Cape Llewin – Albany.

2013-2014 Solo journey aboard the rowboat “Turgoyak” (9m). Route: Concon (Chile) – Mooloolaba (Australia). Time taken: 160 days.

2018-2019 The first in history solo crossing of the South Pacific ocean aboard the rowboat “AKROS” (9m). Route: Port Dunedin (New Zealand) – Diego Ramirez islands (Chile, Drake Passage). Began – 6 December 2018 Finished – 9 May 2019, over 154 days, 13 hours, and 27 minutes covered, a total distance of 11,525 kilometres, or 6.400 nautical miles.