Black Rock Solar Honored for Selflessness

Black Rock Solar
Black Rock Solar

Well now … Burning Man’s spin-off non-profit Black Rock Solar is being recognized for their great work and good deeds over the years!

Solar Power World Newsletter has announced that Black Rock Solar has been awarded the Brian D. Robertson Solar Schools Memorial Fund Award — honoring BRS’s selflessness in solar advocacy, installations and education work. BRS Executive Director Paddy McCully will accept the award at the Solar Power World Top 250 Gala in Chicago, during the Solar Power International conference.

Here’s the story from SPWN:

By popular acclamation, Black Rock Solar, a Reno, Nev.-based solar non-profit installer, will be awarded the Brian D. Robertson Solar Schools Memorial Fund Award.

The Brian D. Robertson Solar Schools Memorial Fund will recognize the non-profit at the Solar Power World Top Contractors Gala on Oct. 21 at The Drake Hotel in Chicago for its selfless solar advocacy, installations and education work.

Black Rock Solar began as a volunteer crew installing a 30-kW solar photovoltaic (PV) array at the Burning Man festival in 2007. That fall, the array was donated to the nearby town of Gerlach, Nev., and Black Rock Solar began its mission of building low-cost solar for organizations and communities who can use it the most.

Since 2007, Black Rock Solar has installed more than three megawatts of solar power for tribes, non-profits and schools in Nevada. Many of its systems have been built at zero cost to its clients.

The BDR Fund is a project of The Solar Foundation, a national non-profit dedicated to expanding access to solar energy and broadening solar energy education in our nation’s K-12 schools. Named for Brian Robertson, a young entrepreneur and solar pioneer who died in a plane crash in December 2011, the award was created to honor Brian’s legacy and recognize the often overlooked work of community-oriented organizations and companies in the world of solar.

“Black Rock and others who have demonstrated their dedication to solar philanthropy make us proud to be part of this industry, and it is important that their generosity be publicly acknowledged,” said BDR Fund Board Member Jigar Shah.

Grid Alternatives and Solar Liberty also competed for the award.

The Top Solar Contractors Gala, taking place during Solar Power International 2013, is the culminating ceremony celebrating the publication’s 2013 Top 250 Solar Contractors rankings. The event will bring together more than 80 companies and 300 installation professionals.

UPDATE: Here’s a nice recap of the gala.

Black Rock Solar Has a Banner Week

[This post comes to you courtesy of Black Rock Solar’s Marnee Benson.]

Rupert Powers, Freddy Pete, and Norman Fillmore of the Washoe Tribe atop Stewart Community Center

Black Rock Solar, one of Black Rock City LLC’s spin-off non-profit organizations, completed work last week on two new solar arrays for the Washoe Tribe of Nevada. The 14 kW roof-top arrays will provide electricity for the Stewart Community Center, where community members attend meetings and cultural events, and to the Head Start building, where educational programs and support services are provided for tribal youth.

Dave Lasky

These are Black Rock Solar’s third and fourth projects for the Washoe Tribe. Through these projects, BRS worked with members of the tribe to provide hands-on job training and classroom education in photovoltaic systems.

These two installations were supervised by Dave Lasky, one of Nevada’s most recent North American Board of Certified Energy Practitioners (NABCEP) certified solar installers, a distinction held by only 22 people in the entire state.

Western Nevada College Array

Also last week, BRS completed work on their largest array to date, for Western Nevada College, located in Carson City, NV. This 201 kW installation will provide a savings of $28,000 per year for the college.  The crew (including 5 newly hired members) dug 518 holes to build the racking system, and installed 836 solar panels at a value of just under $1 million.

This is the first in a series of arrays BRS will be doing across the state for the Nevada System of Higher Education. The dedication ceremony for WNC is scheduled for April 18th, 2012, a few days before the 42nd anniversary of Earth Day. For information, visit the Black Rock Solar website.

Black Rock Solar’s Education and Outreach Program

This was just too good not to share. In case you didn’t know, Black Rock Solar doesn’t just gift low- and no-cost solar power to Northern Nevada institutions who can’t otherwise afford it, they are also spearheading an ambitious education and outreach program as part of their mission to promote alternative energy solutions. BRS’s Marnee Benson writes:

“It’s been a busy and rewarding week for Black Rock Solar education and outreach. On Monday March 21st, we teamed up with Burning Man Government Relations & Legal Affairs to meet with community members in Lovelock, Nevada and discuss economic development. Next up we visited Rainshadow Charter School in Reno to talk about energy efficiency and solar power. In 2010 Black Rock Solar installed a 30 kW array for the school, and this year the students are participating in GREENevada’s Sustainability Plan Competition.

On Wednesday we took part in the Nevada Inter-Tribal Renewable Energy Consortium meeting in Carson City, providing information about our work with Native American tribes across the region. Thursday saw Black Rock Solar twice at the University of Nevada Reno. The first was a presentation for the Davidson Academy, a free school for profoundly gifted learners, and the second was a lecture for UNR’s Energy Policy class, where topics discussed included state and federal policy, economic models in renewable energy, and internship opportunities.”

Phew! For more information, visit the Black Rock Solar website.

Black Rock Solar’s New Executive Director

Black Rock Solar, Burning Man’s sister non-profit dedicated to expanding the use of renewable energy through installation, art, education, and job training, is pleased to announce that Patrick (Paddy) McCully has joined Black Rock Solar, taking on the role of Executive Director.

Paddy is originally from Newtownards, Northern Ireland. He joins BRS from International Rivers, where he spent 17 years (six of them as Executive Director) working to protect rivers around the world from destructive dams and to promote human rights and sustainable water and energy practices.

Before coming to the United States in 1993, he worked with environmental non-profits in the UK and Uruguay. Paddy is on the advisory boards of two Indian non-profits and was formerly on the steering committee of the UN Environment Program’s Dams and Development Project. His book Silenced Rivers: The Ecology and Politics of Large Dams, described by prize-winning Indian author Arundhati Roy as a “dazzling book,” has been translated into five languages.

With such an illustrious career in the environmental non-profit arena, and being a Burner himself, Black Rock Solar is very excited to have Paddy join the team, helping to further its mission.

For more information about Black Rock Solar, please visit their website.

The Other 51 Weeks of the Year

Burning Man 2009

Once again, the outreach groups of Burning Man ([BWB], The Black Rock Arts Foundation, [BRS] and The Regional Network) have teamed up to create a unified presence on the playa: District Everywhere!

District Everywhere is housed under one large pavilion. This year, our interior space will take on the appearance of a large world map, with continents cut out of wood, set up at table height. With the assistance of our Team, guests will create miniature sculptures or flags to represent their off-playa projects and endeavors. Together, the outreach groups will also host interactive activities, art projects, events and gatherings, all geared toward kindling ideas and generating momentum for off-playa, after-Burning Man out reach efforts. Join us for daily BurnSide Chats, hosted lectures, salons and discussions about art, community and culture. Each outreach group will also be hosting cocktail parties and mixers specifically for their group at District Everywhere.  Please visit the Black Rock Arts Foundation any day of the week to learn more about recent projects and future endeavors, and to add to their community-created art installation.  They will be lounging in the shade, sipping lemonade and conspiring to bring interactive art to communities beyond the playa.

BRAF at Burning Man
Monday, August 30, 2010 – Sunday, September 6, 2010
6:30 and Esplanade
Black Rock City, NV
10:00 am – 6:00 pm

Burnside Chats
Monday, August 30, 2010 – Saturday, September 4, 2010
1:00 pm – 2:30 pm and 2:30 pm – 4:00 pm

Party Everywhere – opening reception for District Everywhere
Monday, August 30, 2010   5:00 pm – 7:00 pm

Annual BRAF Playa Cocktail Party
Thursday, September 2, 2010     4:00 pm – 6:00 pm
District Everywhere is located at 6:30 and Esplanade.

We’d love to see you!

photo: affinity

Route 447: America’s Solar Highway

Over the last couple years, Black Rock Solar has been busy sprinkling solar power arrays throughout northern Nevada.  In fact, they’ve been so busy, that Route 447 (from I-80 to Gerlach) now boasts the most (120kW) gifted solar power than any other route in the country.  It has thus been (unofficially) dubbed “America’s Solar Highway”.

And what’s particularly cool is that you can see them from the road.  So if you’re driving 447 on your way to the Burn, keep an eye out for these solar arrays (in order):

Wadsworth School solar array, on the right, just after you turn onto 447.
Solar array at the Natchez School in Wadsworth, on your right just after you turn onto 447.
Nixon Health Center solar array, on your left just as you enter the town of Nixon
Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe Medical Clinic solar array, on your left just as you enter the town of Nixon.
Solar array at the Gerlach School, on your left as you pass through Gerlach.
Solar array at the Gerlach School, on your left as you pass through Gerlach.

Black Rock Solar is paving the way to socially-conscious radical self-reliance (from fossil fuels) in the real world.  Watch for these solar arrays along your way to Burning Man, and enjoy a nice smile of satisfaction when you spot ’em.

Solarstice 2009 June 21 in Reno



Black Rock Solar, the City of Reno, and the West Street Market present Solarstice 2009. Sunday, June 21, 2009, 7PM-10PM, at the West Street Market! This is a great opportunity to connect with friends and the Burning Man community, listen to some great music, drink a beverage of your choice, and generally chill out from the Big Bounce and Dada Motel, all the while supporting Black Rock Solar and the Pershing County School District- on the longest day of the year.

This event will feature performances by Kate Cotter, Tyler Stafford, Leroy Virgil, and Controlled Burn; a raffle with many fabulous prizes including TWO BURNING MAN TICKETS, beer supplied by Great Basin Brewing, and food and refreshment from the fabulous vendors in the West Street Market.

Black Rock Solar is a non-profit 501(c)(3) in the business of gifting solar power to schools and non-profits to marginalized and rural communities. As you drive to the Black Rock Desert, you drive past something in excess of 100 kW of solar generation facility installed by Black Rock Solar. To date, we have installed in excess of 300kW of solar generation capacity in Northern Nevada, saving schools and non-profits well over one million dollars.

The Pershing County School District has been hit very hard by budget cuts. Of approximately 40 teachers, 6 have been laid off in the past year. Black Rock Solar has raised about 90% of the resources needed to build a 50kW solar array, which will save the PCSD approximately $11,000.00 per year (at today’s rates!), and all at no cost to them. But we’re still about $15,000 short of what we need to make this project happen!

Let’s show our broader community in Northern Nevada that we know how to affect creative and positive change, and have a great time while doing it!


West Street Market is at 148 West, in Reno, NV.

Black Rock Solar Earns Non-Profit Status

Black Rock Solar

Black Rock Solar was granted 501(c)3 status today, making them an official non-profit organization!

When combined with their recently-acquired Nevada Contractor’s License (#0072260), this positions them to continue their mission of gifting FREE solar power to institutions who would not otherwise be able to afford it.  As of this writing, BRS has installed 248 kilowatts of solar power, with an estimated lifetime energy savings value of $1,364,000 … and they’re just getting started.

Learn more at

Those who know the bureaucracy involved in this process will appreciate the herculean effort these folks undertook to make this a reality.  Congratulations, BRS!