Vestas, a world leader in wind energy solutions, hosted its second annual Winnovation competition earlier this month at its research and development facility in Aarhus, Denmark. The company selected Darden School of Business Second Year students Ben Goodman and Austin Collins among the 40 finalists, which included both engineering and business school students who were flown to Denmark from 30 countries for the two-day competition on December 3-4.
The goal of the initial case, presented before a panel of 15 judges, was to create greater demand of wind energy by lowering finance costs. “Your ideas could impact our clients around the globe and a large percentage of the world’s wind energy market,” stated Vestas, which is one of the world’s largest producers of wind turbines.
Goodman and Collin’s concept to create a consolidated financing request form in the spirit of Lending Tree took them to the second round. The form would act as the first step in a financial institution’s due diligence process and reduce the need for small to medium-sized customers to staff or outsource costly financing experts to engage investors and obtain preferred interest rates.
For the next sustainability-related case, the Darden students were assigned to separate teams. They tackled a case applying cradle to cradle thinking (which combines all aspects of sustainability into one holistic process) to wind blades, whose composites are difficult to recycle.
Goodman, who interned for BP Alternative Energy last summer, continued to the final round, during which he and his teammate examined whether Vestas should invest in emerging markets in East Africa.
“I had a great time teaming up with individuals from India, Australia and Portugal,” said Goodman.
Though the grand prize – a trip around the world for two – was awarded to engineering master’s student Christopher Rowe from Newcastle University in Australia and MBA student Josie Fung from the Rotman School of Management at the University of Toronto in Canada, the Darden students felt they came one step closer to their career goals.
“My focus is wind energy,” said Goodman. “It would be great to end up at a wind turbine manufacturer.”
“However, looking toward the future wind energy can only get us so far. Look at Denmark, which is a great example, providing 20 percent of its entire electricity demand through wind,” he said. “Yet, even Denmark is struggling to move beyond that number. The Next Big Thing is just an idea right now, and I’d like to be at the forefront of clean energy – whatever that ends up being.”
Founded in 1955, the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business is a professional school that improves society by developing principled leaders for the world of practical affairs.
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