Black Rock Solar experienced unprecedented success in the year leading up to Burning Man 2012. With new staff and crew members (and bidding a sad farewell to some founding members), we installed 13 solar arrays in Northern and Southern Nevada, hosted several educational events and launched a new energy efficiency program. We also kicked off our “Sunshine Grants” program, which helped fund three solar-powered art installations on the playa, as well as an off-grid urban farm in our home base of Reno. In Black Rock City, we threw our second annual Solar Summit and VIP Tour for 70 of our nearest and dearest.
In March 2012, we were the proud recipient of an award from the U.S. Green Building Council of Northern Nevada. The award recognized Black Rock Solar’s contribution to “encouraging sustainability in the community”.
No decompression for the Black Rock Solar installation crew! Our schedule was extraordinarily tight this year, and many of our crew members worked right through Burning Man 2012 and into the winter. From September 2011 through August 2012, they installed 931 kilowatts of solar power – nearly doubling the amount of solar we’d built since our first array on the playa in 2007. Those 13 arrays alone will save our partners a combined $150,000 each year on their electricity bills. For charitable groups like The Children’s Cabinet, publicly funded clinics in Pershing County and Fallon, and public schools like Truckee Meadows Community College, those dollars mean more opportunities to reinvest in essential services.
We also installed our biggest solar array to date: 201.2 kilowatts powering the Cedar Building at Western Nevada College. And we branched into Southern Nevada for the first time, installing at the College of Southern Nevada and The Shade Tree.
This year saw increased partnerships with Native American tribes, including the Washoe Tribe of Nevada and California, the Fallon Paiute Shoshone Tribe, and the Yerington Paiute Tribe. We built seven arrays for these tribes and added another 130 kW at the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe High School. In all cases Black Rock Solar worked closely with tribal leaders and provided job training for tribe members. Apprentices worked side by side with BRS the crew and learned solar installation skills.
Over the past several years, we’ve been steadily increasing our efforts to educate the next generation about renewable energy and sustainability. In April 2012, Black Rock Solar, along with our GREENevada partners, hosted the second annual Student Sustainability Summit. High school students from throughout Northern Nevada presented their plans to improve sustainability practices at their campuses. All 13 teams took home prize money, with the winners from Hug High School taking home a $5,000 check that they projected could translate into $11,000 annual savings.
We also ramped up our educational field trips, bringing dozens of students to our partner sites where they got the chance to learn how photovoltaics work, as well as how our partners serve their communities. Our field trip program is geared perfectly to 6th-8th graders, with an informational scavenger hunt, interactive play and a chance to see solar panels up close.
This year, Burning Man again offered ticket buyers the chance to make a donation with their purchase. We received an unprecedented number of donations to Black Rock Solar, which we were able to put to very good use. In April 2012, we followed that up with a formal fundraising campaign in association with Groupon Grassroots. The funds all went to the construction of a new solar carport for The Shade Tree in Las Vegas. The Shade Tree is an incredible organization: a shelter for women, children and their pets escaping situations of domestic violence. Without donations, The Shade Tree could afford only a small solar array. With the construction of a carport structure, we were able to install enough solar panels to save the shelter $5,600 every year.
The face of Black Rock Solar is changing, as we bring in amazing new people and see our established staff and crew find new successes. We expanded our communications department and internship program, hired a new program manager in Southern Nevada, and launched an energy efficiency program that includes working closely with northern Nevada tribes. The BRS Board of Directors welcomed three new members, including Dan Porras of the Christensen Fund who gifted us a fabulous new website.
Two of our founding members achieved new successes this year. Crew Supervisor David Lasky become one of only 22 NABCEP certified solar professionals in Nevada, and Eli Lyon graduated with honors from Truckee Meadows Community College, earning an Associate of Applied Sciences degree in Construction Technologies with an emphasis in Renewable Energy. Congratulations to them both!
We also said goodbye to one of Black Rock Solar’s founding members – Scott Stephenson – at the start of Burning Man 2012. Happy trails, Spoono, we miss you!
BURNING MAN 2012
This year, we hosted our second Solar Summit at District Everywhere, with music by the Hobo Gobbelins and beats from the solar-powered GOBImobile. It was preceded by a VIP Tour through the city that visited many of the (quickly increasing!) solar-powered art pieces and camps in Black Rock City. Passengers rode the good ship Monaco and Walter the Giant VW Bus, and enjoyed cool mint juleps.
In front of District Everywhere on the Esplanade, a buzzing metal flower beckoned passersby with interactive lights and a theremin-like soundmaker. “Sun Flower Power” was a solar-powered art piece created by Dinaz Kardooni and partly funded by Black Rock Solar.
Meanwhile across town, the Reno Star Cosmic Thistle bloomed at night with solar-powered lights. Black Rock Solar funded and installed a temporary photovoltaic array to provide the power, but when we had technical issues, we called on our friends at Snow Koan Solar. They came through beautifully, and the Thistle provided a bright landmark for many a Burner at night. You can now see the Reno Star at its permanent home at the intersection of S. McCarran and S. Virginia St. across from Meadowood Mall in Reno.
The Huge Freakin’ Laser was an exciting, experimental installation that sought to crystallize the connection between mind and matter … in a huge freakin’ laser. Black Rock Solar funded the photovoltaic array that powered the laser, though we never heard back on whether anything got blown up.
All in all, a fantastic year. Thanks to all the amazing people who have supported us in this past year, we have more opportunities than ever before to fulfill our mission. Thanks for helping us Free the Sun!