When it comes to my story from Sarenne, there is a before and an after. Little did I know just how much my one visit there would change the way I see the world. Now, just turning on a 500 watt halogen bulb breaks my heart. My rubbish bin – once so innocuous – has taken the form of an oil barrel. Trying to recompense, I find myself looking with different eyes at the space around me, asking myself how I can make the best use of the energy around me – another side effect of my trip. Maybe I should have paid more attention in my physics classes?
My new found awakening is down to one man, Fabrice André, who enlightened me on his pioneering work at his beautiful chalet.
I first heard of Fabrice from a friend who, along with his family, had stayed with him at his refuge in the mountains. At once I was intrigued to meet the culprit who had seemingly bewitched my companion. On and on he talked about the ‘miraculous’ energy saving innovations this mysterious scientist laid claim to. I had to meet him. After the obligatory internet search, I discovered a website claiming the merits of “sustainable development at an altitude of 2000m” along with the accompanying press cuttings. Finding a landline number, I tried calling; no answer. I emailed… but to no avail. Now began the frantic search for a mobile number with the looming fear of not being able to find Fabrice at a time when the mountains are in limbo – stuck between the green of summer and the white gold to come.
Success! Fabrice’s friendly nature immediately comes across in our phone call and the subject of sustainable development soon dominates the conversation – a subject our protagonist never tires of. I have to confess that I struggle to keep up when the conversation turns to free energy of the sort created by the earth’s rotation…
To my delight, an invitation to visit him in his snowy lair has been extended – to get to the heart of his research, only a face to face will do – and so begins the next stage of my mission. Myself and my team look for a window in the weather and find a narrow slot between the 26th – 27th November. Packed up and ready for the off, we leave to meet the man in question.
Negotiating the infamous 21 hairpin bends the Alpe d’Huez throws at us, we stop off in front of the altiport to make one last phone call. Fabrice suggests we follow the paved roads, which offer us the most majestic of climbs, despite the grey skies. Thankfully, the only snow we encounter is on the mountain tops. Some 8km later we reach Fabrice’s home. It’s midday and rabbit with wild garlic is on the menu.
Two days pass in a whirlwind, where discourse on energy and its many possible sources monopolise the agenda…. Somehow our modest lodgings in Sarenne transform into a swirling mass of electrons. At the end of the night, snow falls continuously with 30 centimetres cloaking the road by morning. But Fabrice, a well-worn traveller of these parts knows the roads and we set off, letting the thistles which have managed to stand tall despite the weather guide us safely home.