Rows and rows of glistening rooftop solar panels dot the sunlight-abundant east coast of Australia. Being one of the topmost countries with high solar penetration per domestic household, Australia’s 2.5 million solar-enabled homes are setting a green example for others to emulate. However, solar energy, although not expensive to capture, is difficult to store. Evidently, the massive inflow of energy from rooftop solar panels to the national energy grid during peak daylight hours has left grid utilities struggling to store the excess energy. On an equal note, domestic consumers also find it difficult to store the energy for use at a later time.

The problem in both cases is the lack of green, affordable, long-term energy storage systems, with the markets currently dominated by short-lived, environmentally hazardous lithiumion batteries. Stuck between a rock and a hard place, individuals and organizations seeking sustainable modes of energy storage find themselves facing two pertinent questions - How do we go green effectively? And how do we manage our storage systems’ costs?

In one stroke, the answer is provided by LAVO, an energy tech company manufacturing affordable, green energy storage systems for both residential and commercial purposes. Founded in 2020, this Sydney-based firm is developing the world’s first integrated hybrid hydrogen battery that combines with lithium-ion technology and rooftop solar to store and deliver sustainable, reliable, and renewable green energy. “We’re the first go-to-market hydrogen energy storage system that is a long-term storage solution compared to the traditional lithium batteries,” says Matthew Muller, CMO, LAVO.

Fueled by hydrogen, LAVO’s batteries can store up to 40 kilowatts of energy in one unit – ideal for powering an average household for two days. Be it picturesque eco-lodges wanting clean, noise-free alternatives to diesel generators, or solarpowered rural dairy farms requiring a constant power supply to keep their refrigeration facilities running before and after daylight hours to prevent milk spoilage, LAVO can address all their energy storage issues. And with a 13-megawatt, easily transportable, industrial-scale hydrogen energy storage system (HEOS), LAVO has become a viable solution for off-grid customers in Australia. LAVO’s system also has the capability to act as the long-term power bank for the national power grid to store the excess solar energy captured through rooftop solar panels, thus taking some pressure off the on-grid lines.

A Power-packed Hybrid Battery

LAVO – named after French chemist Antoine Lavoisier, who named Hydrogen – emerged from the Providence Asset Group, a private equity investment firm specializing in renewable technology and building solar farms and renewable energy generation facilities. Providence’s joint partnership with the University of New South Wales (UNSW) to evaluate energy storage devices led to the development of a hybrid hydrogenlithium battery storage system. In an agreement with UNSW to privatize and commercialize this new, efficient hybrid technology, Providence launched LAVO, the builder of nextgeneration hydrogen energy storage systems that employs the right combination of alloys and metals that enable storage of hydrogen in a dense metal hydride container at room temperature and low pressure.

We’re the first go-to-market hydrogen energy storage system that is a long-term storage solution compared to the traditional lithium batteries

LAVO’s innovative energy storage system HEOS works by electrolysing water as an energy source. To function, LAVO’s electrolyser– made by German energy company Enapter – is connected to a stable water supply system, demineralized and purified through a filtration device. As electricity is passed through the electrolyser, water molecules are split into hydrogen and oxygen, with the hydrogen getting stored in the hydride chamber while the oxygen is released into the atmosphere. When the system is switched on, the LAVO unit, acting as a motor, provides electricity instantly, as the stored hydrogen passes into the Dutch made Nedstack fuel cell. The fuel cell converts the energy held in hydrogen back into electrical energy, which is released when hydrogen from the hydride storage and oxygen from the air combine to make water. Within a couple of minutes, the electricity from the fuel cell is routed through a DC-DC converter into the household electric supply.

To ensure uninterrupted, instantaneous electric supply, LAVO units can be optimized with a small lithium-ion battery, which will also get fully charged by the fuel cells. Additionally, a hybrid inverter controls the flow of electricity between the solar cell array, the LAVO unit, and the residential or commercial building. “The LAVO unit can be powered by just plugging into a range of standard inverter used in a house or a business,” Muller notes.

Clean Hydrogen Energy for a Greener World

LAVO’s go-to-market strategy is built around the goal to naturally replace and eventually eliminate diesel usage. To that end, LAVO is focusing on sectors like agriculture, ecotourism, mining, and telecommunication. In the telecommunication field, LAVO is working with mobile tower operators to deploy commercially viable alternative sources of energy replacing traditional backup generators, aiming to reduce their carbon footprints. Apart from this, LAVO is set to consolidate its rooftop solar energy system market both on the domestic Australian front, and internationally in the US, Korea and Germany. In the domestic market, LAVO is currently working with local energy system installers and is looking forward to working with authorized dealers to distribute and install LAVO units. Simultaneously, LAVO’s internal business development team will be collaborating with the global engineering firm GHD to identify apt solutions for the larger scale LAVO units, as well as consulting with governments to devise the best solutions for the consumers.

For a young company that has just started operations, LAVO is certainly moving fast in its renewable energy journey. With five units on the verge of getting certified by various Australian authorities, LAVO is readying itself to enter the energy markets. Already, LAVO is working on three projects representing three diverse sectors – ecotourism, mining, and agriculture. Spicers Scenic Rim, a Queensland-based eco-resort, will be soon going completely off-grid with green technology, thanks to the joint efforts of LAVO and the local government. For MacArthur Minerals, a mining firm, LAVO will be implementing its green technology to help the firm limit its carbon footprints across all areas of production. Using the same technological know-how, LAVO is assisting the Duxton Group, an agricultural firm with a collection of vineyards, to become one of the first carbon-neutral wine manufacturers.

With such interesting projects in the pipeline, LAVO aims to start mass manufacturing its proprietary energy storage system by next year. Already flooded with 2000 pre-orders, LAVO will be focusing on scaling up their manufacturing and going international. Moreover, the LAVO HEOS Unit will be making its debut in the first quarter of 2022, giving the first pilot demonstration of LAVO’s product range and utility scale. Next up on LAVO’s range of products using hydride technology are the LAVO barbeque and the LAVO bike. The portable barbeque machine will have a specialized catalytic bed creating a non-flame barbecue using the exothermic reaction of hydrogen reacting with oxygen. “Applying the same hydride technology on our initial prototype of cargo bikes with last mile delivery, we’re getting a lot further range than a traditional lithium battery,” Muller informs.

LAVO’s green, sustainable, and environment-friendly products will go under production next year. One glance at LAVO’s product lineup displays an astute, design-conscious approach rooted in usability. “We want to bring hydrogen to the everyday person, so we’re very much focused on a purpose-driven design that’s usable and workable for everyone,” Muller states. With sustainability in mind, LAVO will remain focused on designing fully recyclable hydrogen-based energy storage products and components, striving to be a positive force on the road to achieving a clean, green energy-enabled world.