The Power crew is my new favorite crew on the playa, if only for the fact that they seem to be the hardest-working folks in the desert. … Wait. That’s not fair. That’s a distinction that’s impossible to make – EVERYone is working hard here. But the Power crew seems to be working longer than everyone else, and that has to count for something.
Actually, in the beginning they were really only working half days — from about 9 in the morning till about 9 at night, well after darkness had fallen. So they were only working for about 12 hours. Half a day.
The head of the crew, Garth, and his aide de camp, Leeway, can usually be found in one corner of the playa or another, checking on various projects and figuring out where the power team has to go next. They’re not just supervisors, though. They do more than a little digging and splicing and connecting themselves.
The other morning, one of the other key players on the team, the Hun, was directing the crew in an Army-like task: Take all these cables out of the container’s they’re in, count them, note it in the inventory, then put them all back in the containers. It wasn’t quite digging a hole and then filling it in, but it felt something like it.
But this is the kind of thing you have to do when there are so many moving pieces to keep track of. Think about it: This crew has to distribute 2.4 megawatts of power from 21 generators through nine miles of cable, and they have to make sure it’s done safely and efficiently.
(And to get a sense of how much 2.4 megawatts is: An average home uses about two kilowatts of power a day, so the Power crew is supplying enough energy to meet the needs of a city of 1,200 homes.)
Everybody and every crew that makes things run around here — the Commissary, Center Camp, the Depot, the tech team, Emergency Services — they all need power to make it happen. And the Power crew has to get it to them.
The organization used to subcontract the job, but they took it in house three years ago, under the direction of Joe the Builder. Joe’s still the man whom Garth reports to, but it’s Garth running the daily operations.
The supplier of the generators, Kohler, is one of the few brand names you’ll see on the playa. And Burning Man is one of Kohler’s favorite things. They pull resources from all over the country to make sure Black Rock City has what it needs.
It’s all about distribution, really. Kohler gets the machines to the desert, and Garth and his crew of 17 get the juice from the machines to the places where it’s needed.
“It’s beautiful and it’s challenging and there’s a social climate you don’t get anywhere else,” Garth said.