Introduction to Renewable Power

Renewable Energy Systems Suitable for Use at Black Rock City***

Whether for an art installation, theme camp, or other uses, you can choose to purchase a complete off the shelf system

"Empyrean Temple" 

Off The Shelf System

or build your own system... 

The Theme Camp "Mystopia" 

Build Your Own System

Photograph by Philip Dupree

Solar panels are the most popular type of renewable power generation at Black Rock City. Wind turbine generators can also be an excellent power source if safely installed and maintained. Either way, success begins with education. The RAT believes strongly that the first step in designing and building a successful system is to have a basic understanding about how renewable energy works. We encourage everyone who is new to using renewable energy for powering their installations to first complete the RAT's Solar Power 101 online course. 

Getting Started

Safety First

Black Rock City is located in Pershing County and the county adopts the 2017 edition of the National Fire Protection Association's National Electrical Code. The code is highly technical, and it is intended to be used by electrical system professionals and safety inspectors. 

Black Rock City is a temporary installation and electrical power generation and distribution is similar to construction sites. The National Safety Council provides this guidance about how to keep electrical installations safe: Temporary Electrical Wiring for Construction Sites

The United States Department of Labor, Occupational Safety and Health Administration provides this fact sheet about Grounding Requirements for Portable Generators

Here is a useful article about Festival Power - Is there Documentable Code?

The RAT's Technical Advisors mentor and assist artists and others in designing, installing, operating, and maintaining safe power systems at Black Rock City. 


There are three primary stages to the design and operation of renewable power systems:

Stage 1 - Analysis and Design 

Step 1 - Complete a system or installation electrical load analysis to determine the desired system capacity. You can use the RAT's Solar Power System Estimator for completing an electrical load analysis. On the Burning Man Hive we offer the online class How To Do Camp Electrical Load Analysis to help people navigate the analysis process.

Step 2 - Design a renewable power system that will provide the amounts of electricity needed over the required time periods to energize your installation and that would be suitable for use in harsh environments such as the Black Rock Desert. 

Below is an example of a design that was used to power the Burning Man 2022 "Waking Dreams" art installation "Spacecats Final Landing" by Ayda Keshtkar.  Yes! It does look complicated and the RAT's Technical Advisors mentor and assist artists with navigating designing their systems. 

Diagram by Alex Aguilar

"Spacecats Final Landing" Build Your Own Solar Power Installation

Stage 2 - Logistics

Step 3 - Solar panels are bulky and susceptible to damage from rough-handling and vibration. Batteries are heavy.  The entire system's components need to be transported, installed, operated and maintained, broken down, and then transported again for re-deployment, storage, or returning components to venders or other sources. In addition vandalism and theft is a recurring problem at Burning Man and we need to secure the non-panel components in strong cabinets or structures with locks. 

Stage 3 - Finance

Step 4 - Based on the system's design and logistical requirements, budget the costs of purchasing, renting, leasing, or borrowing system components, transportation, storage, security and insurance coverage.

System Components

Solar Panels  

"Frienship Cube"

"The Solar Library"

Wind Turbine Generators  

Charge Controllers  

Batteries  

Converters and Inverters

Power Supply Wiring and Connections  

Storage and Security  

Off The Shelf  

Off the shelf systems may be your best choice. Plug and play!