peculiarities of the Cortes Island electric grid

peculiarities of the Cortes Island electric grid

BC Hydro’s 2020 Annual report provides insight, but local knowledge is needed to understand the Cortes Island electric grid.

BC Hydro 2020 report
Reliability performance from Vancouver Island– Sunshine Coast Community Relations 2020 Annual Report

Power outages

Vancouver Island has more trees per kilometre of utility power line than any place else in North America and this can translate into power outages. 

The average Campbell River resident experienced 1.86 power outages, averaging 2.55 hours in 2020. This seems high when compared to cities like Victoria and Nanaimo, but is better than Duncan or Port Hardy.

Cortes Island does not appear in the graph, but a Squirrel Cove resident recorded 6 outages lasting between 2 and 12 hours (each) in her calendar. While the numbers are rounded off, this suggests Cortes is one of the worst areas in the Vancouver Island area for outages.

instability of the cortes island electric grid
Power outages in Squirrel Cove during 2020 – from a resident’s calendar

Replacing wooden poles

The average lifespan of a wooden power pole is 40 to 50 years, and BC Hydro is currently replacing more than 8,000 poles across BC. 

As electricity reached Cortes Island in the early 1970s, many of the poles are presumably near their end of use.

Trees surrounding the cortes island electric grid
Where the poles are – Roy L Hales photo

Where the power comes from

Vancouver Island produces about 40% of its electricity. The remainder is supplied by two transmission submarine cable systems crossing the Strait of Georgia. The older of the two systems, built in the 1980s, crosses from the Sunshine Coast, over Texada Island and emerges at Qualicum Bay. A second cable, laid in 2008, connects Tsawwassen and Duncan.

Adapted from Google maps by Roy L Hales

Transmission cables cross from Campbell River to Quadra Island, but Cortes’ electricity comes from a different direction. A submarine cable connects the Cortes Island electric grid to the Malaspina peninsula.  

Top photo credit: Power lines in Squirrel Cove – Roy L Hales photo

This program was funded by a grant from the Community Radio Fund of Canada and the Government of Canada’s Local Journalism Initiative