Powering the future of luxury eco travel

Spicers Retreats is changing the face of ecotourism, adopting a world-first clean-energy system in its race to become a zero-emissions, zero-waste business by 2030.


To walk along South-East Queensland’s stunning Scenic Rim is to travel back in time 180 million years, to an age before the prehistori­c superconti­nent of Gondwana broke apart and the pieces shifted, forming the continents we know today. A time before the climate heated up, when lush rainforest­s covered most of Australia. Today, these ancient rainforest­s account for only 0.3 per cent of our country’s landscape but travellers can experience their age-old wonders on a multi-day guided walking experience with Spicers Retreats. Depending on your level of adventure, the 50-kilometre trail can be done as two-, three- or five-day walks in the magnificen­t Main Range National Park. In a pioneering move towards sustainabi­lity, Spicers has tapped Australian green-energy innovator LAVO to design and engineer a small solar farm and hydrogen-energy storage system that will provide clean power for the retreat’s luxury cabins and huts along the trail. A locally developed, world-first technology, the LAVO hydrogen battery system captures solar-generated energy in stackable, portable storage units that deliver silent, safe and emission-free power. In a place like Spicers, that means guests can fully immerse in the bush at no cost to nature. Here, Claire Baguley, group sustainabi­lity product and design manager for Spicers Retreats, talks about the company’s ambitions in adopting LAVO as a key move towards carbon neutrality, while Llewellyn Owens, chief product officer at LAVO, unpacks the possibilit­ies of hydrogen energy storage for other rural and regional businesses.

Why did Spicers choose the LAVO system? Claire Baguley: We have five bush camps in beautiful and remote locations on our new Scenic Rim guided walk. The whole Spicers experience was born of a love for the environmen­t. We have a real desire to share that wonder with our guests. So we were looking for a 100 per cent renewable-energy storage system that had no impact on our guests’ experience or on the wildlife. LAVO allows us to store energy generated from solar panels in summer and use it for heating in winter. It means we can swap out the diesel backup generators with something that is completely clean, green, renewable and sustainabl­e. And LAVO is safe. The hydrogen is stored as a solid at room temperatur­e at about the same pressure as a gas bottle for a barbecue. What other practical elements did you consider? CB: We liked the fact the LAVO system was stackable and provides us with real flexibilit­y to scale up or down. The units, which are slightly smaller than a domestic refrigerat­or, are also portable so we can move them across sites on a specially designed trailer as necessary. Can you tell us more about how LAVO will be integrated at Spicers? CB: We are purchasing two LAVO units for each of our five Scenic Rim Trail properties, which will provide us with 80 kilowatts of on-demand power in addition to existing solar and battery systems. The units will replace existing diesel generators. Our objective is to achieve zero net emissions from energy by 2030. The project aims to demonstrat­e how we can move to scalable, reliable and emission-free backup power sources. We’re confident the pilot will prove successful then LAVO units will be deployed as diesel-generator replacemen­ts across the wider group. Many Spicers Retreats properties are located in bushfire-vulnerable areas. Was that a considerat­ion? Llewellyn Owens: In designing and stress-testing the prototypes, many were put into fire to see what would happen. It showed that LAVO operates safely even in a fire event and is much safer than batteries or diesel tanks. Obviously, there are still risks but other factors, such as clearing vegetation from around the units, are important, too. CB: Because the LAVO units are portable, it means we can move them out of danger if we have enough warning. We also have rooftop sprinklers on our remote sites. How much did the project cost? CB: Through its Hydrogen Industry Developmen­t Fund, the Queensland government contribute­d $942,000 and we have put in about $1.13 million. This combined investment goes across developmen­t of the solar farm, a hydrogen generation plant and the bespoke storage trailers, as well as the energy storage units. We want to be a world leader in sustainabl­e tourism. Demonstrat­ing what’s possible and sharing knowledge with others is important to Spicers. What other rural and remote sectors would be suited to LAVO? LO: Telecommun­ications companies are taking a keen interest in LAVO for their remote towers and systems. The batteries they use have a very short life span so they have to resort to diesel as a backup – which is costly to transport. Remote mining and constructi­on areas also rely heavily on diesel. A number of other ecotourism companies, such as Silent Resorts in the Bahamas, are looking to use LAVO. Remote Indigenous and farming communitie­s or farm clusters would also find real value in banks of LAVO units to share energy across their operations.

 ??  ?? Spicers Amphitheat­re Eco Camp is used exclusivel­y for the five-day guided walk on the Scenic Rim Trail
Spicers Amphitheat­re Eco Camp is used exclusivel­y for the five-day guided walk on the Scenic Rim Trail
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 ??  ?? At 160cm high and 110cm wide, the LAVO unit is slightly smaller than a standard double fridge LAVO units will be used to power cabins along the Scenic Rim Trail
At 160cm high and 110cm wide, the LAVO unit is slightly smaller than a standard double fridge LAVO units will be used to power cabins along the Scenic Rim Trail

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