From 1868 to 2006, the Gowings men's department store was a cornerstone of Sydney city life. It extends over 12 floors and was built in the so-called "commercial palazzo style" at the intersection of Market Street and George Street. Last week, investment firm Gowing Bros, which has long existed in parallel and survived the iconic suits, pants, camping gear, and hair salons business, became a cornerstone investor in LAVO, an Australian "lifestyle company" developing domestic hydrogen Energy storage technology.
In a research partnership with the University of New South Wales' Hydrogen Energy Research Center (HERC), LAVO has produced the world's first private / commercial hydrogen battery that stores 40 kWh of energy – three times the capacity of a Tesla Powerwall 2 13.5 kWh.
It has the potential to reshape the way solar energy is generated on the roof when the sun goes down or the grid gets into a power outage.
Alan Yu, CEO and Executive Director of LAVO, says the system is "the culmination of decades of research" and the hard work of an ecosystem of design and manufacturing partners like engineering and design company GHD. Fuel cell technologist Nedstack; and Australian industrial design consultancy D + I.
"Having Gowings on board is a great show of confidence in the work we are doing," Yu said last week.
A streamlined refrigerator with four high-tech cans
Middle of last year, L.AVO's energy storage mechanism – canisters with a metal hydride that looks like iron filings but acts like a sponge for hydrogen – has been refined in the EU laboratory;; It will be available in an attractively designed unit at the beginning of 2021.
Before the official installation date in June this year, LAVO received orders from companies such as an eco-lodge and Gowing Bros.
As part of Gowings' investment in LAVO, the company has committed to purchase 200 LAVO units to be used on its various commercial properties such as shopping malls, many of which are already solar powered, with rooftop installations and parking lots.
"Not only do we offer our retail tenants cost savings in energy savings in the Gowings shopping centers, but we also see a great opportunity to become our own electricity retailer in our residential buildings by using LAVO technology to support an embedded network," said John Gowing. CEO of Gowings, in a statement.
The LAVO is about the size of a household refrigerator with dimensions 1680 x 1240 x 400 mm and weighing 324 kg.
During installation, it is connected to a solar system via a (hybrid) inverter and to tap water via a cleaning system so that internal electrolysers can convert excess energy into hydrogen, which they store in four canisters, and oxygen, which is vented into the atmosphere .
When stored energy is needed, the LAVO activates a fuel cell to provide electricity to the residence or business. An integrated 5 kWh lithium battery provides a buffer that can react immediately to power failure or power failure.
LAVO software partner EvergenThe Australian energy technology developer has integrated intelligent monitoring and control software into the system, including a phone app and Wi-Fi connectivity.
How the LAVO hydrogen energy storage system works.
Weighing costs, performance and environmental benefits
A possible brake when using LAVO in systems that are not connected to the grid is that it is currently limited to a maximum continuous output of 5 kW. A possible solution for households or companies with higher power requirements is the installation of more than one LAVO system that runs in parallel to form an intelligent virtual power plant.
That size, in turn, may be limited by the current cost of a LAVO: the 2021 launch edition, which the company plans to produce 2,500 units of, will cost $ 34,750.
However, prices will fall as production increases: 5,000 units of the 2022 launch edition are expected to be priced at $ 29,450 each.
While the cost of LAVO seems high, it's no more than an equivalent Tesla home battery pack with three Tesla Powerwall 2 systems at $ 12,500 each. and it promises a far longer lifespan than current lithium-ion batteries.
Key components such as hydride storage technology have an expected lifespan of 30 years and can provide more than 20,000 cycles.
At the end of its useful life, the hydride metal alloy can simply be melted down and reused, which brings significant environmental benefits compared to competitive battery storage technologies.
The ability to remove or replace LAVO canisters also makes it easier to power other mechanical or heat generating systems outside of buildings such as bicycles or barbecues.
A boost to the vision of a green hydrogen-powered economy
Professor Kondo-Francois Aguey-Zinsou, who heads HERC and who worked with LAVO to develop the metal hydride solid state storage medium, said that products like this hydrogen-based energy storage system are vital to the development of a domestic hydrogen industry.
The hydride material also has potential applications for large-scale export of hydrogen.
Energy efficiency remains a challenge for all hydrogen-based storage systems. Much is lost in translation, with around 20% of the solar energy generated typically being lost in the conversion into hydrogen and only around 50% of the stored energy being returned to the cycle.
LAVO claims more than 50% "round trip efficiency" of the conversions, which may only require a larger solar system on the roof than the system owner planned, and must be weighed against the longevity of the LAVO technology and its environmental compatibility.
Stock investor and client John Gowing says, "At Gowings, we are looking for ways to invest in what we believe will provide a safer future for all of our stakeholders and make a difference in the communities."
The world's first realization of a hydrogen-based solar energy storage system in the living area, in which hydrogen was previously only considered viable on a mega-scale, shows that green hydrogen can be more than just a pipe dream – perhaps even a dream lifestyle choice.
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