Robert Llewellyn is known in the U.K. as a host of the television show “Scrapheap Challenge,” precursor to “Junkyard Wars.” But as the presenter in an upcoming BBC documentary, he is faced with another type of challenge: bringing clean energy technology to his tiny village in England.
“The documentary is very specifically about the village I live in and how we’re going to power it in the future,” he said. “So we’re exploring all the various systems that are available, and what might be suitable.”
In pursuit of his objective, Llewellyn set out last October from Temple Guiting, an idyllic hamlet about 20 miles south of Stratford-upon-Avon, and headed overseas to explore the science behind clean energy, visiting projects at the forefront of the energy revolution.
One of his first stops: Southern California Edison’s Mira Loma substation in Ontario, where Tesla Energy had begun building a 20-megawatt battery storage project. The battery facility, which recently came online, increases SCE’s grid reliability by providing battery storage of electricity during off-peak hours and using the stored energy to meet demand during peak.
“I don’t think we’re going to install something like this in the village — this is a bit bigger than we would plan to do,” Llewellyn said jokingly during his visit to the Mira Loma battery facility, which has enough energy to power 15,000 homes. “But we’re here to see this emerging technology because California has led the way for many years in this area.”
During filming, Llewellyn asked SCE President Ron Nichols whether investment in battery storage was a game changer for the company.
“The change we are seeing is more distributed energy, primarily solar, and batteries are a part of that,” Nichols said. “Batteries will allow us to better utilize more renewable energy and then have some of that renewable power even when the sun isn’t shining.”
Although batteries don’t produce new energy, Nichols said, they allow excess renewable energy generated during the day to be stored and used precisely when it is needed.
Llewellyn, a rooftop solar customer himself, gets it.
But he wasn’t sure how his fellow residents of Temple Guiting would react when he brought them together for the first time two years ago to discuss powering the entire town with renewable energy.
“I thought, no one will come, they’ll all hate it and won’t want anything in the village,” an historic settlement with buildings dating back a thousand years or more. But, to his surprise, they were all very enthusiastic about the idea. Fortunately, the BBC liked the idea as well, and greenlighted the documentary project.
“I was approaching it from a purely economic standpoint,” said Llewellyn. “But the villagers said, ‘We want to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. We want to leave the world better for our grandchildren than it is now.’ So it’s come from the grassroots.”
The film crew also visited Tesla Energy in Fremont, Las Vegas, a solar farm and a small battery manufacturing company. The documentary, entitled “Village to Vegas,” will air on the BBC in the spring and will be distributed through Netflix and other movie outlets afterward.