Following superstorm Sandy (we can't call it a "hurricane"), I endured five days without power and sat for hours through 1970s-style gas lines. While those are minor inconveniences compared with those who lost homes, businesses, and even their lives because of the storm, it still highlights our vulnerability should a real calamity strike.

This storm barely exhibited hurricane-class winds, yet the Northeast was brought to a standstill. The entire engine of electricity generation seized as millions were left without power and fuel. New Jersey's major utility operator, Public Service Enterprise Group (NYSE:PEG), and New York's Consolidated Edison (NYSE:ED), along with numerous smaller entities, were positively frantic trying to get power restored. I love the quote from fellow Fool Sara Wright discussing the need for the Smart Grid: " Consider that today's grid was invented in the age of Edison, designed in the age of Eisenhower, and installed in the age of Nixon." Yeah, we might be due for an upgrade.

But throughout the entire storm and its aftermath of devastation, there was one power generation provider that didn't go dark. Alternative-energy producer Capstone Turbine (NASDAQ:CPST) says that from Virginia to Massachusetts, its customers weathered the storm without losing power.

While shale gas installations figure prominently in its customer list (and they smartly switched over from their local utility feed to Capstone's microturbines as the storm approached), luxury hotels, office buildings, data centers, health-care facilities, and industrial customers also rode out the superstorm using its microturbines. In New Jersey, Salem Community College was one of the few facilities that remained continuously powered by three C65 microturbines and was turned into a Red Cross relief shelter as a result.

Let's look at the company that one smart analyst says could cripple the utilities.

Capstone Turbine snapshot

Market Cap

$286 million

Revenues (TTM)

$117 million

1-Year Stock Return


Return on Investment


Estimated 5-Year EPS Growth


Dividend and Yield


Recent Price


CAPS Rating (out of 5)


Source:; N/A = not applicable; Capstone Turbine doesn't pay a dividend.

For all the promise of its microturbines, Capstone has yet to achieve profitability. While it moves closer to the goal, it still exhibits a lot of volatility, and as a penny stock, inherently it carries a lot of risk.

Math is hard
Profits remain elusive, but margins continue to expand. Revenues rose 9% last quarter, hitting $30.1 million, a record achievement for Capstone, while gross margins also widened to 9%. It's had positive gross margins in eight of the past nine quarters and has witnessed its fifth straight quarter of expansion. Its backlog continues to grow, and it saw a robust order flow that increased 21% year over year.

I like the premise behind Capstone, but I've noted in the past that its reliance on natural gas drillers for microturbine sales could prove dicey in the current weak pricing environment. Southwestern Energy (NYSE:SWN), Encana (NYSE:OVV), and Chesapeake Energy (OTC:CHKA.Q) have all announced cutbacks in production because of low prices, as have Kodiak Oil & Gas (NYSE: KOG) and EOG Resources (NYSE:EOG).

Business will come back, but it just might not be anytime soon, and while it has $45 million in cash on its balance sheet, meaning it should be in no danger of running out any time soon, the double-digit revenue gains it's recording is still coming up short of expectations.

In the sight of greatness
I've had an outperform rating on Capstone on Motley Fool CAPS, the 180,000-member-driven investor community that translates informed opinion into stock ratings of one to five stars. While the stock has fallen almost 4% since I weighed in on it in June, compared with a 6% rise in the S&P 500, I'm confident the tide will turn for the microturbine maker and that both sales and profits will power its rise.

But let me know in the comments box below if you think the fallout from Superstorm Sandy and the mounting criticism over how utilities responded to the crisis will provide a jolt to Capstone Turbine's prospects.

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.