Watch “Going Solar” – Experiential Learning for a Sustainable Future

Burners are tinkerers. More than that, many of us are makers and technologists who venture out into the Black Rock Desert to learn, innovate and prototype. It comes as no surprise that there is a ton of solar expertise in the Burning Man community – so much that Burners are ahead of the curve, exploring and prototyping technology that is leading the world. 

Going Solar, the latest documentary by the all-volunteer Profiles in Dust crew, profiles several teams whose Black Rock City 2022 solar projects are working towards a net zero Black Rock City. Their work, and the learning and collaboration within the broader Burning Man community, is bringing us closer to meeting our Environmental Sustainability Roadmap goal to be carbon negative by 2030.

And they’ve only just begun. Whether led by Burning Man Project or the community, these sustainability projects continue to evolve into 2023. Jump below the video for a list of collaborative groups you can get involved with — no matter your current level of knowledge on solar energy.

During the pause between 2019 and 2022 Burners got busy and our collective knowledge about solar energy grew incrementally. Several teams working closely together rolled out solar systems and community education that came to fruition in Black Rock City 2022. 

All these teams are going full steam ahead for Black Rock City 2023, scaling and advancing solar projects and education. All are welcome to participate — here’s how you can get involved: 

2023 Sustainability Year Four Update

On July 21, 2023 you’re invited to join our 2023 Sustainability Report: Year Four Update to connect with the projects and people leading Burning Man’s sustainability efforts. Register here.

RAT Members — Doug Hanson, Bruce Cooper and Ken Rehor — installing solar panels at the Empyrean Temple, 2022 (Photo by Scott Williams)

Green Theme Camp Community (GTCC)

GTCC is a community-led group stewarding Burners towards the goals laid out in the 2030 Sustainability Roadmap. Two projects under their umbrella are Burner Leadership Achieving Sustainable Theme Camps (BLAST) rating system and the Thrival Guide, a future open source playbook of sustainable playa infrastructure. Join their Facebook group to learn about the next GTCC online happy hour and find out more on their website.

Join GTCC April 25, 2023 on Campfire Talks for “Sustainability is a BLAST!” Members of GTCC will talk about their work on Thrival Guide and BLAST, you’ll meet some BLAST-rated camps from 2022, and discuss what it means to be a camp sustainability lead. Register here.

Burner Leadership Achieving Sustainable Theme Camp (BLAST)

BLAST is a green theme camp certification system developed along the lines of LEED certification for green buildings. In 2022 they met with, assessed and rated 20 camps across six focus areas — food, power, water waste, shelter and transport. View the results on their HIVE page. BLAST will be back for Black Rock City 2023 and they’re looking for camps to review; fill out this form if your camp is interested, and join BLAST on Hive to get involved.

BLAST volunteers at BWB Camp, 2022 (Photo by Andi Cox)

Renewables for Artists Team (RAT)

RAT is a community-run group that offers education and technical support to help artists switch from fuel generators to renewable energy. They’ve rolled out a series of solar power courses in Burning Man Hive, including Solar Power 101 and Solar Powered Art on the Playa. In 2022 RAT supported 12 artists on playa, including powering the portals on the path from the Man to the Temple. They’ll once again be supporting artists in Black Rock City 2023. All are invited to participate in RAT’s weekly meetings in Hive. Learn more on their website.

The Renewables for Artists Team with artists at Center Camp, 2022 (Photo by Scott Williams)

Burning Man Project’s Solar Crew

The solar program started in 2021 out of necessity as a part of the 2030 sustainability initiatives. Burning Man Project has invested in acquiring solar resources with the aim to help alleviate our dependency for diesel generators and associated logistics on playa.

The Solar Crew continues to innovate with the design and creation of three new portable solar prototypes. Building on last year’s success, we’ll be expanding our fleet with a solar-powered refrigerated container, and new solar-powered workshop/living containers for use in Black Rock City 2023 and on our Northern Nevada properties year-round. In 2022 the team successfully rolled out 42 Baby Wookiees, which are 2.4 kW PV solar trailers used to power art projects and support city infrastructure. Burning Man Project also deployed two larger systems we call the Unicorns. These 30kW PV arrays mounted on containers were deployed as test cases, one to power a solar camp and the other to illuminate the Man throughout Burn Week.

Unicorn charging beneath the Nevada sun (Photo by Matthew Deluge)

Black Rock Labs

Black Rock Labs is a nonprofit technology incubator working with the Burning Man community to develop and scale solar energy systems that can be used in Black Rock City, and then implemented year round in the wider world. The knowledge and technology that emerge through this process can then be deployed in disaster sites and other urgent situations. 

We’ll close with a quote from Going Solar. Here, Joshua Tree from Snow Koan Camp muses on the multi-year trajectory from fuel generator to full solar:

“When you can break it down in steps and just say year one… we need to make the foundational pieces to start putting solar, wind, and batteries first, and then you’re still going to use generators, but now you use the generator to fill your batteries so you can be primarily powered very simply. And then it’s just refining and expanding your system. You can invest in some that you own, modify, rent some, and over three years everyone can make the leap to be a hundred percent renewably powered. You can get better and better. The silence is more and more, the generator runs less and less. This community is so good at innovating once they understand the pieces. Now with all of these puzzle pieces that can be purchased, they can be leased and also can be supported. The time for the transition is fast, just go step by step by step and we’re all going to get there.”

Cover image of mutant vehicle “Daisy the Solar Powered Tricycle” by Samuel Carter, 2022 (Photo by Henry Wu)

About the author: Burning Man Project

Burning Man Project

The official voice of the Burning Man organization, managed by Burning Man Project's Communications Team.