If you are making a plan for your garden, homestead or farm site, food production is likely to be your primary concern. But before you commit to creating your designs, it could be a good idea to think about how you might be able to integrate energy generation.
In permaculture, of course, we always try to begin by looking at the big picture – working from patterns to details. Looking at the big picture means looking at sunlight, wind and water. But it can also mean looking at how the site as a whole will help us move to the point where we can become more sustainable and self-reliant when it comes to our basic needs.
Energy, from wood for fuel, to renewable electricity generation, is one basic need that might be overlooked. But water, food, shelter and energy are the core ingredients that can help us live a more sustainable and eco-friendly way of life. And thinking about energy infrastructure before we commit to a design can sometimes be a very good idea.
Installing renewable power infrastructure might just involve something as simple as making sure there is unshaded suitable roof space for the placement of solar panels. Or considering where underground cables etc. may need to be run.
But it might involve things that more strongly influence the placement of elements on a site. For example, a wind turbine might be positioned in a windy spot on the property. If you are lucky enough to have a river or stream, there may be potential for a hydro system of some kind to be set up.
Thinking about whether wood will be required to heat your home, and/or for cooking can of course have a major bearing on woodland or forest design and management. A successful coppicing system, for example, would be much easier to establish if you think about this need before you begin your design.
So when thinking about your goals, and what should be achieved from a permaculture design, it can be helpful to consider energy needs as part of the picture.