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Renewable Opportunities For Cortes Island By 2030

Editor’s Note: This article is one submission in a live Masdar blogging contest (find out the entry requirements here). Very simply, the focus of the contest submissions is to: “Describe your city in 2030: what will occur due to changes in energy, transportation and water technologies, and how will they transform how you live?” We are sharing this submission here on CleanTechnica because we think it’s awesome and because Masdar is sponsoring CleanTechnica in order to raise awareness about this great competition. I have personally engaged in the contest in previous years, and I hope one of our readers wins this year since it would be great to meet you in Abu Dhabi!

There are presently fewer than a thousand residents on Cortes Island, which is presently  a six-hour drive (and three ferry trips) north of Vancouver in British Columbia, Canada. There will be many renewable opportunities for Cortes Island by 2030.

Our most important issue is forestry. Though two-thirds of British Columbia is clad by trees, logging companies can presently clearcut forests after they are 80 years old. As a result, most of the mature stands of our province’s past are primarily found in historical photographs. Only 1% of the once-plentiful Douglas fir remain. Most of the timber that reaches market is now half sapwood. (Mature trees are almost totally heartwood.)

It takes about 180 years for many species to reach maturity, and the lifetime of a Douglas fir is about five centuries. Most of the mosses, lichens, and ferns that take nitrogen and other nutrients out of the atmosphere grow in forests that are at least 150–250 years old.

According to a study by Sierra Club BC, the province’s logging practices have transformed our forests into a carbon emitter. Two hundred and seventy million tons of carbon emissions — six times British Columbia’s official annual emissions! — were released into the atmosphere in 2003. This is not sustainable.

Though Cortes Island’s Community Forest initiative is scheduled to start cutting in April 2015, one of its top priorities is restoring the island’s forests. For this reason, no old or mature timber will be harvested for many decades. Where logging is allowed, it may limit the cut to 15% of the available timber in a plot. This is believed to be a sustainable level, which would allow the harvested area to continue developing. By 2030, Cortes Island will model how BC’s forests can be logged in a way that allows them to return to their former glory. 

The periodic power outages Cortes presently experiences will hopefully be a thing of the past. A 5 MW energy storage facility could be built on the island. Many of the homes on the island’s sunny south side could utilize solar panels to produce more energy than they use. Cortes Island can be a net energy producer, rather than consumer, of energy.

Only zero net energy homes should be built after 2020 and the vast majority of older homes will hopefully utilize PACE financing to pay for energy-saving upgrades that enabled them to cut their usage by anywhere from 50% to 90%.

There will be only a handful of “gas cars” left on the island. After the price of EVs went below that of “normal cars” and their range reached 500 miles per charge — in the 2020s — sales of combustion-propelled vehicles fell to less than 1% of the market. Manufacturers did not find that sustainable and started producing only EVs.

Most Cortes residents will prefer the eBus, or bicycles (to keep fit), for on-island trips. 

A large number will also prefer public transportation for most of their longer trips. After the provincial government’s priority shifted from serving corporate interests, to serving the people of BC, it found ways to make the system work. People will board the eBus to Campbell River and then catch either high-speed rail or, if they are willing to pay the additional fee, a flight to any destination in the world.

EVs are still invaluable for reaching remote locations but, as a growing number of people are recognizing, if they need a car, they can rent one or use a car-sharing program.

These are all renewable opportunities Cortes Island can develop by 2030.

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