The idea that sparked Black Rock Solar came at the 2007 Burning Man festival, an eight-day counterculture arts festival held annually in Nevada’s Black Rock desert. The festival—themed “The Green Man” that year—attracted a company looking to promote their green and clean-tech wares. Renewables Ventures, a San Francisco renewable energy company, donated a 30 kW PV system to help power lights for the festival. A crew from Burning Man’s Department of Public Works installed the array, in the shape of the Zuni sun, on the desert floor.
After the festival, the Burning Man crew—which included employees Tom Price and Richard Scott—moved the donated array to an elementary school in the neighboring town of Gerlach. With state rebates, the original array was expanded to 90 kW, providing the school with 30% of its electricity needs and saving the town government more than $15,000 per year. The success of the Gerlach school project led Price and Scott to develop another 30 kW project at Pershing General Hospital in the town of Lovelock.
At the end of 2007, the two established Black Rock Solar. In those early days, Burning Man and its board provided key advice, technical assistance, and financial support to help BRS get off the ground. The festival continues to show its support for BRS—customers who buy Burning Man tickets online can also donate funds to BRS. Additionally, Burning Man allows BRS to use space in its San Francisco office rent-free.
True to its roots, BRS returns to Burning Man every year. In 2014, look for them in the Everywhere Pavilion, where the Burning Man outreach groups gather and host events.