The price is worth $1.5 million. The company, which recorded record losses last year, presumably could use the cash—but its chief executive, Ditlev Engel, promptly gave it away.
Engel gave half of the prize to a new “trust mark” called WindMade, which is aimed at highlighting products made with wind energy. Its goal is to drive adoption of wind power by harnessing consumer sentiment.
He gave the other half of the prize to three of the six finalists. They are California-based clean energy advocate Terry Tamminen, who now runs a consulting firm called Seventh Generation Advisors; Barefoot College in India, which educates the rural poor, and First Solar, the thin film solar manufacturer in Arizona.
It’s curious that a wind company CEO would give money to a solar company, but it may have been an impulsive gesture on Engel’s part.
“We need it all,” he said afterwards with a laugh, explaining that solar along with wind and other forms of clean energy will be required to deal with climate change. “This is not an either/or.”
“The first blades we made, somebody told me, an employee had a row with his wife because he tried to bake them in the oven,” Engel said, recalling the company’s difficult early days.
Two other runners-up went home with $350,000 checks. They are E & Co., a New Jersey-based investment fund that makes clean energy investments in the developing world, and design and efficiency guru Amory Lovins, the founder and CEO of the Rocky Mountain Institute.
Christine Eibs Singer, the CEO who co-founded E & Co. more than 15 years ago, said: “When we started this journey, there wasn’t anyone talking about small business and climate change in the developing world.”
The announcement of the winners came in an almost comically-theatrical, reality TV-style ceremony at the lavish Emirates Palace Hotel, complete with a live violin and piano performance and a parade of sweet-faced children representing the future.
Think of it as Sustainability Idol with R.K. Pauchari, who shared a Nobel with Al Gore in 2007 and chaired the panel of judges, playing the Simon Cowell role, minus the sarcasm, of course.
In all seriousness, the Zayed prize is part of Abu Dhabi’s ambitious and far-reaching effort to spur the development of clean technology. It rewards innovation, long-term vision and leadership in renewable energy and sustainability.
Prior winners were Dipal Barua, the founder of the Bright Green Energy Foundation, in 2009 and Toyota in 2010.