Sunstock: A Solar-Powered Music Festival

Seven years ago, Janet Napolitano announced the Carbon Neutrality Initiative, which commits the UC schools to emitting net zero greenhouse gases from its buildings and vehicle fleet by 2025.

What better way to raise awareness for that goal than with a rock concert?

Saturday, September 30th, from 3 to 9 p.m, rock bands jammed out in the name of Sunstock Berkeley, a 100% solar-powered music festival. Held on the West Crescent, the festival ran smoothly and successfully for its first year at UC Berkeley, serving as a fun event while also highlighting the importance of clean energy and environmental justice.

Berkeley is currently generating about 1 MW of power from solar energy, but appears to be making little effort to reduce energy waste at the source, as anyone walking by a completely well-lit, but empty campus building can see. Not only that, but the UC system also currently invests billions of dollars into the fossil fuel industry. Sunstock was a way to draw attention to our quickly-approaching 2025 deadline, while highlighting how we can get creative with sustainability efforts!

Sunstock Berkeley is a subset of the larger Sunstock Solar Festival, held annually in Los Angeles every September. Sunstock takes pride in bringing good music to events while partnering with such environmental organizations as GRID Alternatives and the Citizens’ Climate Lobby. Last Spring, members of the ASUC Sustainability Team, the official environmental organization of the ASUC, began planning the event for its first appearance at Berkeley. The idea for extending the completely sustainable music festival from Los Angeles came from a student-based desire to combine two big interests: rock shows and renewable energy.

Trapdoor Social, an alternative rock band based in Los Angeles was the first band invited by the ASUC Sustainability Team to play on campus back in 2016. Trapdoor Social makes performing with solar-powered equipment possible by attaching a set of solar panels to their touring van. The success of the 2016 concert led to the development of Sunstock Berkeley. In fact, all of the performing acts had their onstage equipment powered by the same solar panels used by Trapdoor Social, highlighting the relationship between the band and the campus community dedicated to hosting the event.

In addition to providing music, one of the primary goals for the event was to educate the campus community on environmental issues and provide opportunities for involvement. Such organizations as Imperfect Produce and the Rising Sun Energy Center were invited as partners for the event, advertising their services. The Rising Sun Energy Center even presented options for future employment, providing tangible options in supporting renewable energy initiatives. While the music attracted plenty of people to the event, the partnerships and avenues for involvement in environmentalism gave many attendees a reason to have interest in the field. In the future, the ASUC Sustainability Team intends on finding more ways for concert-goers to make a difference in the fight against climate change through the festival.

Even though it’s too late to attend this year’s festival, plans have already begun for its second iteration next year. Sunstock Berkeley was truly a success, as a wide diversity of people showed up to support the important cause of renewable energy and enjoy great music. Solar power isn’t a common option for powering concerts (especially not music festivals), and Sunstock Berkeley helped show its versatility. Here’s to an even more successful festival next year!


Contributing author: Ryan Saraie is a third year at UC Berkeley studying Environmental Economics & Policy, and a member of the ASUC Sustainability Team. 

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