At Sup’EnR, the school of renewable energies, all the lights are green

CASE. Perpignan is home to Sup’EnR, an engineering school unique in France, dedicated to all renewable energies. A sector prized as much by students sensitive to the ecological transition as by recruiters with ever more numerous and varied needs.

Sun, wind, rivers, the sea… In the Pyrénées-Orientales, the elements are favorable to the installation of renewable energies.

Thus Sup’EnR, a one-of-a-kind engineering school, is located in Perpignan. “We are the only ones to approach wind, solar, geothermal energy, hydraulics, biomass, marine energy”, presents Régis Olivès, the director.

Partnerships with Insa and CNRS

Since 2016, the establishment attached to the University of Perpignan has established a partnership with the Insa group. Thus, students can apply directly via Parcoursupprovided you go through theInsa Toulouse. They follow a two-year post-baccalaureate course there before continuing on to the engineering cycle (three years). The training also recruits after a license, a CPGE (preparatory class for the Grandes Ecoles) or a BUT (university bachelor of technology).

On site, Sup’EnR benefits from a powerful ally: the laboratory Promises of the CNRS, dedicated to solar materials and processes, which manages the Odeillo solar furnace in Font-Romeu and the Thémis tower plant.

“These are unique installations that the whole world envies us”, boasts Quentin Falcoz, researcher at the Promes laboratory and teacher at the school. The latter teaches a week on the site of Font-Romeu, in autarky in the mountains.

The Odeillo solar oven in Font-Romeu in the Pyrénées-Orientales. Adrien Toutant works there as a researcher and also teaches at the engineering school. // © Anouk Passelac

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A sector in constant innovation

The Promes laboratory also accommodates fourth-year students for their practical work. In one of the dedicated rooms, a small group works that day on the manufacture of a photovoltaic cell. “We start from the raw material and we go to the development of a complete cell”, explains teacher-researcher Kamal Djessas.

For the exercise, the basic material will be silicon, “but there are better materials, less polluting and allowing cells to be produced at a lower cost, specifies the professor. Kamal Djessas presents the progress of research in this area to students: “We need to innovate in this area and we need trained young people to face the next challenges.”

The students are also very willing. Like Jon, who likes “the challenge” that renewable energies represent. “The environmental challenge is immense and there is everything to do”, launches the young man of 21 years. “I like the pioneering side”, explains Daniela, who wants to become a project manager in marine energies, a field that is still little explored.

The students explain to their classmates and the teacher their approach to making a photovoltaic cell.
The students explain to their classmates and the teacher their approach to making a photovoltaic cell. // © Anouk Passelac

courses in the humanities

The course does not just provide technical lessons on the various renewable energies. “We do not train technological engineers, but engineers with a sensitivity to environmental, social and economic aspects”, says the director.

This involves courses in human sciences (law, economics, etc.) carried out in partnership with another CNRS laboratory named ART-Dev. In this way, students are introduced to land use planning by integrating the notion of sustainable development and work on the acceptability of an energy project among the population.

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Ecological transition at the heart of the curriculum

“The human aspect is very important”, underlines Régis Olivès. The local dimension too: “Each territory corresponds to specific uses, needs and resources, he continues. We start from there and adapt our response”.

While the Insa group seeks to train all its engineers in ecological transition, Sup’EnR is therefore setting an example. An aspect much appreciated by students, whose ecological commitment is well established. Antoine wants for example “to improve the world in which we live”, and Nolwenn to “feel useful and in agreement with [ses] values”.

The students Daniela, Nolwenn and Inès (from left to right), present their photovoltaic cell prototype. This is surrounded by a layer of conductive metal that will transform solar energy into electricity.
The students Daniela, Nolwenn and Inès (from left to right), present their photovoltaic cell prototype. This is surrounded by a layer of conductive metal that will transform solar energy into electricity. // © Anouk Passelac

More internship offers than students

In 2022, the establishment received 5,300 applications from Parcoursup, for 24 places. This very strong selectivity is the other side of the coin of a sector with a bright future : from international to local, politicians are working to develop renewable energies.

Design offices, public authorities, associations… The opportunities are extremely varied, ranging from the design of energy systems to the deployment of on-site projects, including the energy renovation of buildings.

So much so that the school, linked to the local economic fabric, receives three times more internship offers each year than it has students. And if some young graduates choose to continue their studies, particularly in research, those who discover the world of work are all in business. In 2020, 37% of students found a contract even before the end of their training and 54% in 2021. Most often, this is a permanent contract.

At Sup’EnR, the school of renewable energies, all the lights are green