Orkney: Britain’s Green Islands with Julia Bradbury and Alex Beresford – 2 November 2021 – ITV

In this new one-off documentary commissioned as part of ITV’s Climate Action Week programming, Julia Bradbury and Alex Beresford travel to Orkney to see how these beautiful islands are making stunning progress, pointing the way for all of us towards a greener future.

Immersing themselves in island life, they find out how, on land and sea, Orcadians are harnessing their extreme weather to power their lives.

Alex takes a mini-break in one of the UK’s only fully electric campervans to the remote island of Westray whose tiny community have turned their fortunes around by building a massive wind turbine.

Since then they’ve been selling power to the grid and pouring substantial profits into local amenities – like a community garden, affordable housing and the local golf course. So wind is to Westray as oil is to Texas!

Alex heads to the golf course and tries to tackle the UK’s longest hole – a whopping 738 yards. He also visits one of Westray’s must-see sights – its puffin colony. But we all need to work to be more green if these lovable but endangered birds aren’t to succumb to climate change.

One in 12 households in Orkney make their own renewable electricity – Glynis Leslie, on the island of Shapinsay, among them. Julia lends a hand at Glynis’s small factory kitchen producing delicious jams and chutneys, which is powered by a 6kw wind turbine, christened Teresa! Not only does Teresa power Glynis’s cookers – she also provides electricity for the family farm and any surplus gets sold back to the grid. Glynis has saved two thirds on her energy bill since getting Teresa.

Orkney produces around 130 percent of its energy needs through renewables, on windy days producing more electricity than the grid can handle. Julia visits the Shapinsay community wind turbine which is equipped with some cutting-edge technology: an electrolyser that converts surplus energy into hydrogen, hailed as the fuel of the future because when it is burned it produces only water vapour.

One possible user of this hydrogen is Julia’s ferry back to the Orkney mainland – the MV Shapinsay – which is on track to be the world’s first hybrid-hydrogen ferry (though it’s possible their Norwegian rivals will get there first!). This is big news for Orkney, whose ferries are its biggest user of fossil fuels, and for the shipping industry worldwide which currently accounts for around 2.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions. The next step, Julia learns, might even be hydrogen-powered aircraft. Orkney hopes its short island-hopping routes will host the world’s first hydrogen-powered passenger flight.

Orkney’s renewable revolution will in future be powered by water as well as wind. In fact, wave power could potentially be the biggest source of clean energy on the planet yet remains largely untapped. But kayaking across Orkney’s vast natural harbour of Scapa Flow, Julia discovers this may be about to change.

These sheltered waters provide a nursery site where companies from around the world come to test wave energy prototypes. Having paddled in the wreckage of some eerie, partially submerged, blockships, used by the Royal Navy to protect the fleet from German attack during both world wars, Julia and local guide Kristian Cooper reach a very different landmark, the Blue X experimental wave energy converter.

Meanwhile Alex heads out by speedboat to see the 02 – the world’s most powerful tidal turbine. The 02 can power around 2,000 homes, so ten of them could power the whole of Orkney. And harnessing predictable tidal energy, which isn’t dependent on the uncertainties of the weather, isn’t just good for Orkney…It’s estimated that the UK coastline accounts for half the tidal capacity of Europe.

As their Orkney sojourn comes to an end, Julia and Alex feel inspired by both the islands’ unforgettable landscape and its resourceful people, pathfinders pointing the way towards a bright, sustainable future.



About the Show

This show is broadcast on ITV.

About ITV

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