How Burning Man Spawned a Solar Gold Rush

Nationswell has a great story on Black Rock Solar:

At the end of Nevada’s annual arts festival in 2007, a small group of volunteers donated a solar power array to a local school. Since then, they’ve built more than 70 installations and changed state law in the process.

When the nonprofit Food Bank of Northern Nevada scraped together enough donations to expand to a brand-new 61,000-square-foot facility in McCarran, Nev., in 2008, organizers hoped to power the place with the state’s omnipotent rays.

BlackRockSolar_FoodBankofNorthernNV_JessicaReeder-10-680x499It was a pipe dream, though. The Food Bank, a distribution and outreach center, didn’t have enough funding left over to pay for a solar project, even one that would eventually pay for itself, as such installations can over time. And even if they could get a rebate from the state utility to help pay for the project, Nevada law at the time capped those incentives to solar installations smaller than 30 kilowatts — not nearly enough to make sense for a facility as large as the food bank. That’s when Black Rock Solar stepped in. The Reno-based nonprofit, spawned at the Burning Man arts festival in 2007, provides low-cost energy to underserved communities. Black Rock put relentless pressure on the state’s Public Utility Commission to remove the cap, according to Food Bank’s president and CEO, Cherie Jamason. Their efforts paid off, and when the agency flipped on the lights a few months later, the juice came from a 150-watt solar array on the roof, installed by the very group that had started out as a bunch of “burners.”

That small cadre of volunteers — with backgrounds in solar energy and construction —discovered that they could position themselves as the ideal middlemen between NV Energy, the state-run utility handing out incentives for solar installations, and Nevada groups that didn’t know money existed or how to take advantage of it.

solar array _ 350Now, seven years later, Black Rock Solar has 28 employees and has built 72 projects worth roughly $20 million, pushing more than 4 megawatts onto the grid, enough to power 4,000 homes. About a third of the projects have gone to Indian tribes, says Patrick McCully, Price’s successor and Black Rock’s executive director. The rest went to schools, community colleges, churches, food banks, homeless shelters and even some government buildings such as wastewater treatment plants. Black Rock Solar — funded entirely by utility rebates, grants and donations — is now the nation’s second-largest nonprofit installer of solar arrays.


It’s great to see Black Rock Solar out there doing so much good in the world. We hope the new non-profit Burning Man Project can learn from their example, and leave a lasting trace in the community.


Solar Freaking Roadways

If the road to hell is paved with good intentions, maybe the road to Black Rock City could be paved with these…

Yes, this is a THING. I just sent them a few bucks, they’ve raised $612,000 so far of the $1 million they’re seeking on IndieGogo. What a great way to power your camp, and keep your feet safe from Playa dust. Although how well they work when covered in said dust is something that needs to be tested.

The Huffington Post brings us the whole story:

Solar-Panels-By-Scott-and-Julie-Brusaw-of-Solar-Roadways-300x224As the once far-fetched idea of “solar roadways” gains a huge convoy of supporters–from the US Department of Transportation to Google to the Times of India to evenFox News — a new video aimed at the millennial generation is set to go viral again, according to clean energy advocates.

This just might be the most inspiring, riveting and definitive roadmap for clean energy independence — Solar Freakin’ Roadways.

Many of us learned about the visionary energy inventors Julie and Scott Brusaw and their Solar Roadways in 2010, thanks to the first viral video by filmmakers Ben and Julie Evans and Mark Dixon, who broke the story on the Brusaws in their award-winning film, YERT–Your Environmental Road Trip.

“We first discovered Solar Roadways on the YERT trip in 2007 when Scott and Julie were just getting started — in fact, Scott called us the ‘guinea pigs’ for his original powerpoint presentation about it — and the idea completely blew our minds,” said Ben Evans, director of the film YERT: Your Environmental Road Trip.


According to Evans:

“What they were working to invent was so outside the box and seemingly impossible that Mark (Dixon, producer of YERT) and I thought Scott might just be some crazy dude living in the woods. Well he does live in the woods, but he’s perfectly sane, really smart, and as nice and down-to-earth as you can imagine. We uploaded the first Solar Roadways video in late-2007 which got a little traction, and then an updated video about the first major prototype in mid-2010,an adapted version of which was included in our feature-length eco-docu-comedy which came out the following year. That second video really ‘broke the story’ in a way — the idea completely captured people’s imagination and thevideo went viral on YouTube. Boom! We’d never experienced anything quite like it — Mark and I started getting emails from people literally all over the world with ideas or suggestions or requests to have Solar Roadways in their city — and of course we’d forward all of those emails to Scott and Julie, since it’s their baby. But it’s been really cool to help get this idea out into the world and to be some part of enabling the Solar Roadways phenomenon.”

Seven years after breaking the solar roadways story, the YERT team added:

“Of all the incredible environmental solutions highlighted in our feature film, it’s one of the ones that resonates the most with people. Now with their newly-installed working prototype and their Indiegogo campaign to seed the manufacturing process, Solar Roadways really has a chance to become a reality in the near future. That’s just incredible — but it can’t happen without the support of people who care. Scott and Julie are doing all they can to keep this ‘of, by, and for the people’ by crowd-funding it as much as possible, so supporting their Indiegogo campaign is crucial. I think this hilarious new video by Michael Naphan, which includes clips from the YERT film, really brings home for a new audience what Solar Roadways is and why we need it. I hope it helps the mission!”

Here is their original 2007 video:

Sunshine Superheroes

by Whatsblem the Pro

Looks like that troublemaker Sol is in jail again

Looks like that troublemaker Sol is in jail again

Black Rock Solar, a non-profit run by superhero burners, has just completed the installation of a large photovoltaic array on the roof of another non-profit that serves the homeless and hungry in Carson City, Nevada.

The array consists of 130 solar panels delivering a whopping 28 kilowatts of unmetered, mostly green electricity to Friends in Service Helping (FISH), Northern Nevada’s largest services provider to those in crisis. FISH provides a dizzying panoply of services to the needy, and served 18,337 Nevadans in 2012 alone.

The solar array is expected to cut FISH’s electric bill by an estimated $6,500 per year. With a projected lifetime of at least twenty-five years, the solar array – which cost $112,000 to build, at no cost to FISH – is worth approximately $162,500 in energy savings.

Jim Peckham, Executive Director at FISH, was quoted in Black Rock Solar’s press release, saying “the savings from this array will make it possible for us to do more for our people. For example, it could double the amount of food we can serve in our dining room, or cover the cost of the insulin we provide to diabetic patients.”

With the project completed just in time for the holidays, FISH will be able to put even more on the table at their 2013 Thanksgiving dinner for the homeless and indigent. Along with cooked meals served in their free dining hall, the non-profit organization also provides those in need with groceries, showers, clean clothes, counseling, shelter space, and a free medical clinic; FISH also operates several thrift stores in the area, but 95% of their yearly budget comes from donations. Their motto is “not just a handout, but a hand up.”

Funding for the solar array came via a large rebate from NV Energy, supplemented by crowd-funding conducted by Black Rock Solar. Thanks to the rebate, Black Rock Solar was able to provide $9.33 worth of free solar to FISH for every donated dollar. “It’s an exciting opportunity to see donation dollars doing real good in the community,” noted Patrick McCully, Black Rock Solar’s Executive Director.

“This has been a special project for us,” said Marnee Benson, Deputy Director of Black Rock Solar, citing both the technical challenges of installing the array, and the funding requirements. “We’re pleased the array is completed just in time for the holidays, so FISH can start channeling more of their donations directly into programs and services.”

This is not Black Rock Solar’s first rodeo by a long shot. On October 21st of this year, they won the Brian D. Robertson Solar Schools Memorial Fund Award after being nominated by the fund’s Board of Directors and then selected by public vote as the most deserving organization of 2013. The non-profit has installed a host of solar arrays totaling some 3.5 megawatts to date, all at zero cost or deep discount. Recipients of their energy-efficient generosity include a number of Northern Nevada’s other non-profits, along with Native American tribal councils, rural towns, and school districts. If you keep an eye peeled on your way in or out of Black Rock City, you just might see one or two of those installations along the way. The non-profit also makes a significant contribution on-playa at Burning Man each year.

Doin’ it right. Black Rock Solar, we salute you.

To find out more about Black Rock Solar, visit their website at, or drop in on their Facebook page.

Black Rock Solar in Black Rock City, Burning Man 2011