Principle 2: Catch and store energy

“Make hay while the sun shines”


Design Principle 2: Catch and store energy

By developing systems that collect resources when they are abundant, we can use them in times of need.

This icon for this design principle represents energy being stored in a container for use later on, while the proverb “make hay while the sun shines” reminds us that we have a limited time to catch and store energy.

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Cultivating a micro-climate for change

Juan Anton built his greenhouse using bamboo and rocks collected from his property. The sun facing wall stores heat during the day and releases it during the cool nights, preventing frost. The water tank and containers act in much the same way, allowing him to grow tropical plants in the Mediterranean climate. Juan shares much of what he has grown and learnt at his edible forest with dozens of visitors who stay over for group discussions that can last for several days.

‘Cultivating a micro-climate for change’ photo taken by Hélène Legay and featured on the cover of the 2016 Permaculture Calendar.


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Design Principle 2: Catch and store energy

Principle 2: Catch and store energy - Sustainable harvesting from a sustainable source

Sustainable harvesting from a sustainable source

High energy costs will drive growth in forestry for both fuel and structural material to replace steel, aluminium, plastic and other high embodied energy construction materials. This timber harvest from a 40 year old ecological forest restoration at El Pardo in Mexico uses more labour intensive management on a smaller scale that addresses sustainability issues. Reafforestation of degraded agricultural and grazing land captures and stores the energy of the sun with multiple benefits.

Photo contributed by David Holmgren

Principle 2: Catch and store energy - Making good use of the sun

Making good use of the sun

During height of summer sunlight is shaded from Abdallah House’s living room windows; in the cooler months it streams through and heats the thermal mass of the floor, regulating temperature. The solar panels on the roof convert sun’s energy to electricity, while the vegetables in the garden transform it into food. The fruit trees also provide wood and materials for weaving, while water collected from the roof is stored in the tank and used to irrigate the garden using gravity.

Photo contributed by Richard Telford

Principle 2: Catch and store energy - Heat people not the space

Heat people not the space

Thermal mass can be heated by the sun or on demand using systems like this rocket mass heater. The masonry holds hundreds of times more heat than air, storing it for longer, and releasing it at safe temperatures to keep people warm. This design incorporates a rocket stove and flue running through the masonry. Careful design and construction ensures that the small amount of fuel used is burnt hot and clean, while heat is soaked into the mass.

Photo by Calen Kennett, heater by Ernie and Erica Wisner

Principle 2: Catch and store energy - Old carob tree

Old carob tree

Here the upper reaches of Brownhill Creek, in South Australia, supports a profusion of human food including; olives, grapes, prunes, figs and walnuts. This old carob tree, bent and broken, is offering shelter to new growth and still producing sweet pods. This ancient food tree helps to trap and hold sediment, draws from stream flow above and below ground, and uses sunlight to convert these resources into nutritious food.

Photo and accompanying text contributed by Joel Catchlove

Catching and storing the goodness of the alpine meadow

Catching and storing the goodness of the alpine meadow

In Montafon, farmers graze their cattle on alpine meadow pasture during summer and produce this Sura Kees (sour cheese). The raw milk and the wood of the vessels carry the microflora for natural fermentation. Most of the food value of the milk is caught and stored by the cheese for longer life and transport. “Cheese: milk’s leap towards immortality” [Clifton Fadiman].

Photographed in Montafon, Austria by Christoff Schneider.

Joe Polaischer at Rainbow Valley Farm

Joe Polaischer at Rainbow Valley Farm

Joe, a highly skilled and much loved craftsman and permaculture teacher, was himself a huge store of precious skills and knowledge. He is pictured here with many examples of energy caught and stored. The passive solar house that he and Trish Allen built, the well bred and cared for milking cow, kitchen garden, attached grape vine, the tree shelterbelt behind – all of these catch and store energy from sunlight.

Photographed at Rainbow Valley Farm in New Zealand by Christoff Schneider.

Principle 2: Catch and store energy - Dry bananas while the sun shines

Dry bananas while the sun shines

Low tech solar drying using a salvaged window fly screen, and a roof. Bananas were so cheap and plentiful in Australia that very ripe bananas would often go to waste. Cyclones sometimes blow down exposed banana plants – Cyclone Yasi destroyed most of Australia’s banana crop in 2011. The resultant short supply and high prices remind us to catch and store surpluses when we can.

Photo contributed by Beck Lowe

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