July 16, 2008
When a Texas oil billionaire tells you that wind power is the next growth industry, it may pay to listen. T. Boone Pickens may have made his fortune by harnessing the nation's addiction to Texas tea, but he recently announced plans to shift his focus to alternative energy, including wind and solar sources.
Fellow Fool Toby Shute keeps us up to speed on the solar space with his weekly solar updates on industry titans such as First Solar (Nasdaq: FSLR ) and Suntech Power (NYSE: STP ) . But wind-power plays always seem to be blowing in the breeze, left for investors to hunt down opportunities on their own. Maybe that's because there aren't many pure-play investment options out there, but as T. Boone can attest to, that doesn't mean there isn't money to be made by playing in the space.
Danish-based Vestas Wind Systems is the preeminent player in offering "wind power solutions" to help firms build wind farms, obtain and maintain wind turbines, and take care of all the related service commitments. Unfortunately, the shares don’t trade on a U.S. exchange, though other oil giants such as Chevron and BP (NYSE: BP ) have growing (but admittedly relatively small) alternative energy divisions.
General Electric (NYSE: GE ) is one of the largest global manufacturers of turbines, even though wind-related sales still account for a minuscule percentage of its total sales. GE counts Siemens (NYSE: SI ) as an archrival; that company has a similar wind-power focus and has helped German wind power grow to account for 4% of its total energy production. For small-cap opportunities, check out rapidly growing mini-conglomerate Otter Tail (Nasdaq: OTTR ) ; it operates DMI Industries, which manufactures wind towers.
Again, besides Vestas, there are few opportunities for pure exposure to the best wind-power players the market has to offer. But given the growth prospects and what they could mean for the parent firms and your portfolio, I think T. Boone may have found the next big energy play.