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Energy & Environment: our students on a field trip in the Alps

Co-organized by École Polytechnique and KIC InnoEnergy, the STEEM Study Field Trip 2016 took our students to the Alps capital Grenoble during the last week of October to confront them with a number of facets of the energy transition problem.

Students had the opportunity to visit the facilities of major companies, start-ups and research centres in the field of environment and energy, as well as to meet with top-level scientists, engineers and industry professionals.

Host partners included KIC InnoEnergy, EDF, Schneider Electric, French Alternative Energies and Atomic Energy Commission (CEA - LITEN Research Institute), National Solar Energy Institute (INES),  CNRS (EDDEN Lab, LEGI Lab) and start-ups such as GULPLUG, STIMERGY, SYLFEN.

Focus on the visit of Grand'Maison Dam - EDF production unit

EDF production unit at Grand’Maison, the largest hydroelectric power station in France, was one of the most impressive visits. Located upstream of the Romanche valley, the Grand’Maison Dam is at an altitude of 1,700m and can store 140 million m3 of water. The primary purpose of the dam is to serve as the upper reservoir for a pumped-storage hydroelectric system where Lac du Verney, located at 770m in the valley, is the lower reservoir. Eight turbine-pumps, located 72m below Lac du Verney, can either pumped back the water to the upper reservoir when electricity is in excess on the network or act as a peaking power plant during periods of high demand. Grand’Maison is the largest energy storage system in France.

Student and Professor feedbacks

Our Russian student Alsu was particularly interested in the visit of the National Solar Institute (INES). “I had never seen such an impressive photovoltaic solar platform before. Now I have a better understanding of the theoretical and practical aspects thanks to the real examples of the energy efficiency in buildings, PV cell technology and yield enhancement, optimization of the performance and operation of building due to integrated thermal and electrical systems.”

She was also very glad to meet with professionals specialized in Energy.  “The most inspiring part was to hear the real start-ups story, in particular the project of Sylfen, using hydrogen technologies for the secure energy supply.”

Our Vietnamese student Lap was also very satisfied with the study field trip. “This trip was a huge opportunity to approach the industries and to catch the trends of the energy industry in general and the effort towards the renewable energy field in particular. Through this journey, I had to rethink about the definition of renewable energy, especially the visit to Schneider Electric, and the talks with the start-ups supported by KIC InnoEnergy. They showed me that renewable energy is not only about finding renewable sources but also about making the best use of the current sources and technology. And last but not least, this journey offered many opportunities for internships and later on future careers in industry and research.”

“From the departure to the return it has been a real moment of discussions and exchanges, whether it was in the Oisan mountains to visit the Grand'Maison dam or in Chambery for the solar energy institute or in the KIC InnoEnergy office. All students were enthusiastic and strongly participating despite the high rate of visits. The clear-sighted questions they raised showed their deep interest and good understanding of challenges at stake.” said Professor Claude Basdevant


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