Theo Labaye, a 2017 ECAM Engineer, embodies the dreams and aspirations of new generations who want to change the world. For him, working in the green energy was obvious.
I have always wanted to to do a job that makes sens. To evolve in a field in accordance with my inner convictions is fundamental for me.
Why choose engineering studies ?
I did a scientific baccalaureate, I loved the technique and did not want to do medicine… Engineering studies were naturally a must. The fact that my father was an ECAM Engineeer motivated my choice of school : I decided to join ECAM Lyon.
What memories do you have of your studies at ECAM ?
In hindsight, I realize that I really liked my two years of preparatory classes because there was a real solidarity between the students. I am still in contact with many of them. We had the feeling, during these two years, that we were at the peak of our abilities and that everything will be easier after because this was the hardest part. At the time, it was really difficult, but it brought me so much strenght, it was very instructive. Today, in my job, when I have to conduct a meeting, face people who may be virulent, I dare to speak. In integrated preparatory classes we learn all year and we can correct our mistakes while almost everyhing is decided on the day of the competition for classic preparatory classes.
Have you accumulated experiences in sustainable development, is this a vocation ?
I did two internships in this field. The first one took place at the R&D Center of the Barbara Hardy Institute of South Australia University. I was working on optimizing the production and consumption data of an ecovillage. For my internship graduation, I was in a French company specialized in renewable energy production facilities : Valorem. And it’s been three years now since I am here !
I have always told myself that I wanted to do a job that made sense and serve a specific purpose. Evolving in a field in accordance with my inner convictions is essential for me. This is what makes my every day job extremely fulfilling at Valorem.
What is your position as an RE project manager at Valorem ?
I take care of the development of wind and photovoltaic projects (solar power station on the ground) with the communities. A wind project usually lasts 7 years in France, and I handle the part before the building site : a municipality contacts Valorem, I evaluate its wind potential, I make a study of land security to make sure of the feasibility of installation. Then comes a phase of studies of about 18 months : landscape study, ornithological, acoustic, access to the site, etc… I am in charge of driving all these studies. At the end of the studies, a phase of instruction of the project by the services of the State begins, which can last a few months or some years… Once the project is authorized, we can launch the buildinig site and it is there where I pass the baton. During all these steps, I take care of the consultation with the territory : the elected officials, farmers, local residents, etc … Everyday I have to exercise pedagogy and creativity because each project is different.
Do you think it is th the role of the engineer to invent a more sustainable future ?
I think we should all work together, engineer or not. Sustainable development is everyone’s business. An engineer in a consulting firm can also work at his level, in his own way of managing, ti raise awareness in his company, but also in personal life.
If the brightest engineers were running away from hyperconsumption companies for sustainable development companies, it could also help make a difference.
It requires an awareness of the public authorities and changement of our way of living because the least polluting energy is above all the one we do not consume.
What do you think are the qualities of an engineer ?
Demonstrate rigor in our own approach to problems. When faced with an unknown situation, it is normal not to know everything but you have to surround yourself with the right people, bet on the collective to find the solution. Plan, organize, direct and control, these are the four pillars that I have learned during my studies and on which I rely in my job. This makes it possible to apply a good working methodology.
Where is France in terms of wind energy ?
Wind power covers more than 6% of the overall French electricity consumption. There is still some way to go, like setting up offshore parks that still do not exist. Especially since France has a significant maritime potential and a great wind resource. Wind energy is an asset to preserve the environment and fight climate change, by producing our electric energy locally from an infinite resource. As an example, Valorem is working on the installation of 10 wind turbines near the Haute-Picardie TGV station, which will produce 120 gigawatt-hours per year for 20 years, the equivalent of the electricity consumption of 43,000 homes.
And in the future, where do you see yourself ?
I still see myself at Valorem, on more technical projects. I would like to work on new thematics like hydrogen ou the renewal of old wind farms.