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Innovation, CNR’s DNA

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From the outset, CNR has always been a highly innovative company in the service of the River Rhone for producing hydroelectricity, river transport and irrigation. It is now implementing a very ambitious policy of research, innovation and development that allows it to remain an exemplary concessionary and speed up its development as an energy producer outside the Rhone Valley. The imperatives of climate change and energy transition, ecology and solidarity are additional opportunities for reinforcing this impetus for innovation.

Innovation at CNR: four directions of research

In order to carry out its research, innovation and development (RID) projects, CNR wields several advantages: large hydropower development schemes, wind farms and solar power plants, and integrated engineering and energy management. CNR has split its research paths into four themes:

  • The management of hydroelectricity installations: installation maintenance and safety, optimisation of production facilities;
  • New renewable energies and their associated products and services: linear PV arrays and floating solar power plants, demand management, storage, renewable hydrogen, etc.;
  • Energy and biodiversity: fish migrations, sediment management, etc.;
  • Innovative methods of forecasting and exploiting renewable energies

Innovations in the service of continuous improvement

CNR has developed leading edge expertise in the development and management of large rivers like the Rhone. Technological, energy and environmental innovations are developed in the service of electricity, river and sustainable land transport, and agriculture. They are part of an approach to ensure continuous innovation aimed at optimising the performance of CNR’s industrial facilities, selling production, and developing and maintaining the installations. They are all intended to generate strong socioeconomic impacts in the territories, in line with the policy of furthering the general interest and in collaboration with the territories. These are the goals that guide CNR’s actions.

Innovation in the service of ecology

An actor involved in energy and ecological transition, CNR is committed to favouring an ever-greener French energy mix. Several levers are set in motion to achieve this:

  • Opportunities linked to the development of new renewable energies;
  • The emergence of new dynamics and new markets such as electric mobility, agricultural transition, the renewable hydrogen sector, etc.;
  • The contribution of digital technology to develop new products and services to increase the flexibility of electric systems;
  • The formulation of innovative offers, such as the supply of smart electricity.

Collaborative innovation in the service of the largest number

As a laboratory of tomorrow’s energies, CNR develops new solutions in favour of sustainable territorial development. To achieve this, it relies on the dynamism generated by collaboration that includes its employees and actors in the territories, first and foremost of which are the local authorities, but also research laboratories, schools and universities, start-ups, and industrial companies.

CNR asserts its culture of innovation

Innovation is a state of mind at CNR. By adding to solutions developed by its engineers, both in-house and in the framework of scientific partnerships, CNR is also innovating in processes conceived in the field by its teams, whose creativity it encourages.

The approach of in-house innovation valorises both individual and collective innovations. This takes the form of an internal innovation competition, Innov’Action, held every year that allows the different teams to take inspiration from the best projects and adapt them to their trades.  

External technologies (partners, start-ups, schools, etc.) are tested and integrated for different trades (virtual reality to train the maintenance teams, connected technicians for working in confined spaces, HR chatbot, etc.).

The Noé Fund: promoting new 100% renewable production resources

The Noé Fund was set up by CNR in 2003 to finance research, development and the construction of new renewable electricity production resources. The Fund is fuelled by ALPENR+, a green electricity offer sold by ENALP, a dedicated sales company of which CNR is the leading shareholder.

Since it was set up, the Noé Find has financed the following projects, among others:

  • Mapping wind fields in urban areas,
  • An electric river shuttle for teaching purposes,
  • Coupling a battery with photovoltaic production on a building.

Innovation tested at full scale: monitoring water levels by drone

CNR is the guarantor of hydraulic safety of the development schemes on the Rhone. Therefore, it has to monitor variations of water height and the extent of flood plains. In order to go further than with traditional land-based surveying, CNR henceforth completes its field observations with surveys performed by drones and airborne radar.  

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