A world first: Inauguration of the Organic Photovoltaic Roof of the Mendès-France Secondary School in La Rochelle

By ENGIE - 15 November 2017 - 12:00

A world first: Inauguration of the Organic Photovoltaic Roof of the Mendès-France Secondary School in La Rochelle

The inauguration of this innovative facility for producing energy on roofs is particularly noteworthy since it is the largest installation of organic photovoltaic films (OPV) in the world.

It was in response to a call for tenders, launched by the Charente-Maritime Department, that the teams of ENGIE, the leading French group of the energy transition, proposed to cover the 530 sq. m roof of the Pierre Mendès-France secondary school, in La Rochelle, with HeliaSol® technology.


Thanks to this innovation, which is a photovoltaic film installed with no need to strengthen the structure or pierce the roof, the Pierre Mendès-France secondary school will be able to produce 23.8 MWh of electricity per year that will be used directly by the school. This is equivalent to the annual consumption of five households and 15 to 20% of the school’s electricity needs.


The goal of this experimental facility is to open the way in the longer term to large-scale development of this new technology. Developed by Heliatek, in which ENGIE has held a stake since 2016, this organic photovoltaic film is suitable for lightweight roofs, either flat or curved, on which conventional solar panels cannot be installed. It is also faster to install and is easily recyclable.


Renewable energies are an essential part of our strategy, based on a decarbonised, decentralised and digitised world. And half of all energy consumption comes from the building sector. For them, solar energy is increasingly an opportunity and, thanks to OPV technologies, buildings which up to now were unable to benefit from the advantages of photovoltaic energy will now be able to use it. Our partnership with Heliatek allows us to play our full role as supplier of the best solution tailored to each customer” Isabelle Kocher, CEO of ENGIE, explained.


According to Thibaud Le Séguillon, CEO of Heliatek, “thanks to HeliaSol® technology, lightweight structures which cannot be fitted with conventional photovoltaic panels will now be able to produce green electricity. The Mendès-France secondary school will thus reduce its carbon footprint and contribute to the production of more environmentally-friendly power. In addition, thanks to our ENGIE partner and shareholder, we have been able to complete this fantastic project in record time.”


The Project Partners


The project has been carried out in partnership with ENGIE, the Charente-Maritime Department, Heliatek, and the National Education service through the Poitiers education district for the Mendès-France school.


The Charente-Maritime Department


The Department, already strongly involved in public sustainable development activities, has accordingly drawn up a multi-year plan for fitting the 600 000 sq. m of roofs which it owns, with photovoltaic equipment. As a partner of this “pilot” project, the Department is backing an energy technology that will enhance its building stock thanks to the installation of photovoltaic solar energy equipment that is free from the constraints imposed by conventional panels and which can be rolled out to other sites.


In its capacity as contracting authority, the Department chose a secondary school as the medium for this world first, with the bonus of raising awareness among the younger generation, teaching staff and parents to the issues of climate change. For this purpose, educational kits developed by the ENGIE teams will be delivered to the schools to raise-awareness among the pupils of the issues surrounding solar energy and, beyond this, to energy-saving in general.




As a pioneer of the energy revolution, ENGIE is developing high-performance, innovative solutions in four main areas: renewable energies, energy efficiency in buildings, green mobility and digital solutions for managing energy (smart grid, data management, etc.).


The leading wind energy and solar energy operator in France, over 60% of its electricity production is of renewable origin. It is within the context of its policy of developing innovative solutions that in 2016 ENGIE acquired an equity stake in the start-up Heliatek, the product designer.


The Group is positioned as the industrial integrator of this ground-breaking innovative solution for producing electricity on buildings. For the Pierre Mendès-France secondary school facility, ENGIE provided 100% of the investment.




A German start-up specialised in manufacturing organic photovoltaic films, Heliatek aims to develop innovative solutions for decentralised energy production. The company holds the world record for an OPV with a conversion efficiency of 13.2%. It has a strategy of collaborating directly with industrial partners active in the building sector.


To move to the industrialisation stage, a dedicated production plant is under construction in Dresden in Germany and Heliatek aims to begin sales of its product in late 2018.


The Pierre Mendès-France secondary school of La Rochelle


The school is one of the 51 public secondary schools for which the Charente-Maritime Department is responsible. Founded over 50 years ago, nearly 500 pupils attend the school every day.


The additional interest of HeliaSol® technology offered by ENGIE for a school such as Mendès-France is that the installation work could be carried out during school time thanks to the ease with which the system can be fitted. 

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