From a steep sell-off to new all-time highs, 2020 has been a turbulent year in the stock market. COVID-19 vaccine progress is encouraging, but there remains a lot of uncertainty as to how the economy will function in 2021.

Investors looking for new opportunities may want to consider NextEra Energy (NYSE:NEE)and Equinor (NYSE:EQNR). Each offers a combination of income and growth by paying quarterly dividends and investing heavily in wind energy. Here's how.

An offshore wind farm in Dutch waters.

Image source: Getty Images.

1. NextEra Energy

NextEra Energy has been one of the most unique growth stories in the renewable energy space. As a regulated utility, NextEra features the rare combination of growth from new investments and predictable inflows from existing infrastructure that support its dividend. This balance has allowed NextEra to allocate as much as $28 billion toward new projects between 2019 and 2022.

NextEra's leading renewables portfolio is the result of over 20 years of investments. But the company has been ramping up renewable spending even more over the past few years. In the third quarter, it added a record 2.2 GW of signed contracts to its renewables backlog (1.44 GW of net new additions). This brings its total renewable backlog to over 15 GW, which is more than its entire existing renewable portfolio. 

Wind energy is NextEra's largest renewable investment. As of the third quarter, new wind energy projects and wind repowering (updating old wind farms) accounted for 80% of 2019 to 2020 renewable contracts. Wind comprises over half of NextEra's renewables backlog. 

NEE Total Return Level Chart

NEE Total Return Level data by YCharts

NextEra Energy is one of the safest ways to invest in wind energy. As an established utility, it has the capital to invest in large-scale regulated renewable energy investments that should return the same steady stream of free cash flow that its fossil fuel projects generate. The company has a dividend yield of 1.9% and 26 consecutive years of dividend increases, earning it a coveted spot on the list of Dividend Aristocrats.

2. Equinor

Equinor is Norway's premier oil and gas company. Formerly known as Statoil, Equinor has spent decades producing oil and gas from the Norwegian portion of the North Sea, one of the world's largest and most mature offshore plays. Today, Equinor is leveraging its offshore engineering expertise by developing one of the world's largest offshore wind portfolios.

Like NextEra, Equinor will use its core business to fund capital-intensive renewable projects. The company currently produces about 2 million barrels of oil per day, but has 6 billion barrels of oil equivalent -- a measure of oil and natural gas -- in reserves with a breakeven price of less than $35 per barrel. That's 30% lower than the current oil price and is competitive with long-term oil price forecasts. 

2020 has been a challenging year for Equinor, so it divested 50% of its U.S. wind projects -- Beacon Wind and Empire Wind -- to BP. The partnership looks to be a good move because it gives Equinor a decent chunk of change in the short term without deterring the company from its long-term goals. Equinor expects to book the profit in the first quarter of 2021. 

In terms of project development, Equinor is forecasting it can earn 8% to 12% nominal unlevered returns from its renewable projects. These are the returns it expects to earn without factoring in taxes, investment fees, inflation, and financial leverage through debt. It plans to grow its capacity from 0.5 GW in 2019 to 4 GW to 6 GW in 2026. And then 12GW to 16 GW in 2035. Management is serious about making these projects a reality. The company got a new CEO in August who is prioritizing offshore wind.

When approaching Equinor, investors should keep in mind that offshore wind is a relatively new industry. Projects can take years due to permits and construction, and the payoff can take even longer. The upside is that Equinor has an early first-mover advantage into what could be a big industry. It believes that Europe will produce 450 GW from offshore wind by 2050, 212 GW of which will come from the North Sea. And given Equinor's experience in the North Sea, it's perfectly positioned to take advantage of this tailwind. Equinor yields 2.1%.

The perfect tailwind

Offshore wind energy is still in the beginning stages of its growth spurt. According to the IEA, offshore wind provided just 0.3% of global power generation in 2018. But under the group's Sustainable Development Scenario, capacity could more than quadruple by 2025 and then double between 2025 and 2030. This leaves plenty of opportunities to catch its tailwind.

NextEra Energy is playing the safe route when it comes to investing in renewables -- building infrastructure and then locking in steady streams of regulated cash flows. As an oil and gas company, Equinor lacks the consistent performance of a utility. But offshore wind is a perfect fit for Equinor, and the company has shown every indication that it's dedicated to investing in it for the long term. Investors picking up equal parts of both stocks will enjoy a 2% dividend yield while gaining exposure to two different ways of investing in wind energy.

This article represents the opinion of the writer, who may disagree with the “official” recommendation position of a Motley Fool premium advisory service. We’re motley! Questioning an investing thesis -- even one of our own -- helps us all think critically about investing and make decisions that help us become smarter, happier, and richer.