Editor's note: This article has been updated to clarify that ENER's Class A shares will be converting to Class B shares as of Sept. 30.

Don't look now, but Energy Conversion Devices (NASDAQ:ENER) might just prove to be that rare bird -- an alternative energy play with actual products and a reasonable chance of living up to lofty investor expectations.

Starting with the company's recently reported fiscal fourth-quarter results, business looks all right. Total revenue was up only about 5%, but product revenue climbed 39%. Expenses were down about 8% for the period, and the company narrowed its operating loss from more than $10 million to about $7 million.

At this point, "product revenue" pretty much means sales of the company's photovoltaic solar cells. ECD sold nearly $51 million of them for this fiscal year, about 84% more than in the year-ago period. The company also managed to achieve gross profitability with this business and recently broke ground on a new plant that should double manufacturing capacity.

As is generally the case with alternative energy plays, the story with ECD is about the future. For those not familiar with the company, it has a joint venture with Chevron (NYSE:CVX) for batteries designed for hybrid vehicles, a photovoltaic solar cell business, licensing agreements with Intel (NASDAQ:INTC), STMicroelectronics (NYSE:STM), and GeneralElectric (NYSE:GE) for memory technologies, and potentially valuable intellectual property and technology in fuel cells and hydrogen storage.

It would appear to me that hybrid vehicle batteries are the biggest near-term opportunity. Although the company didn't specify the customers, it has acknowledged receiving production orders for battery packs -- most likely, I would guess, from Ford (NYSE:F) and/or General Motors (NYSE:GM). With hybrid vehicles becoming increasingly popular and rivals like Sanyo and Matsushita tied up with capacity and/or licensing constraints, ECD would seem to have a solid opportunity to establish itself in the North American hybrid vehicle market.

Of course, this is a company with more sizzle than steak today, so investors have to appreciate the risks that go along with technology development and the building of new markets. That said, the company's balance sheet is in pretty good shape, and I don't think that anybody could quibble with the roster of corporate partnerships already in hand.

There are a few specific risk factors here -- in particular, a dual-share structure that gives preferential treatment to the founders and the age of the CEO. But this is a company with multiple high-value opportunities before it. And it is worth noting that the company's Class A shares -- the ones that carry the preferential treatment -- are converting to ordinary Class B at the end of September. With profitability perhaps only a few years away, this could be a worthwhile stock for investors looking for a credible play on energy technology.

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Fool contributor Stephen Simpson has no financial interest in any stocks mentioned (that means he's neither long nor short the shares).