At The Motley Fool, we poke plenty of fun at Wall Street analysts and their endless cycle of upgrades, downgrades, and "initiating coverage at neutral." So you might think we'd be the last people to give virtual ink to such "news." And we would be -- if that were all we were doing.

In our recurring column, This Just In, we cover some of the hottest stocks and the most headline-worthy upgrades and downgrades in the market. But we also go behind the scenes, putting the analysts' logic to the test and pulling their records out into the light of day so you can tell whether they're worth listening to at all.

Today, we begin an occasional companion column to This Just In, in which we'll be doing something a little different. Using upgrade/downgrade news as a starting point, in Get to Know a Guru, we'll introduce you to some of the lesser-known names in analyst land. Up this week: Ardour Capital.

Profiles in punditry
Friday morning, an unfamiliar name (to me, at least) popped up on the list of analyst upgrades and downgrades published daily on MSN Money. A firm called Ardour Capital was highlighted as downgrading the stock of micro turbine specialist Capstone Turbine (NASDAQ:CPST) from "hold" to "reduce." Why was this interesting? For one thing, because of the level at which Capstone is trading and the price to which Ardour sees it dropping. With shares currently fetching just $1.13 per stub and Ardour predicting a fall to an even buck, this is truly a micro downgrade.

What raises it to a level that it got attention is the fact that, at first, I had no idea who Ardour was. And second, after doing a little digging, it turns out that these guys just may know a thing or two about alternative energy plays such as Capstone. So without further ado, let's get to know this guru:

According to its own website, "Ardour provides investors that specialize in small capitalization growth companies a truly independent brand of research not traditionally found within the securities industry. Ardour has made a commitment to be a leading research institution in the Energy Technology/Alternative Power sector." So to summarize, this little-known analyst focuses on the speculative field of alternative energy small caps. This is a risky business, as early investors in hydrogen fuel cell pioneers such as Ballard Power (NASDAQ:BLDP) and Millennium Cell can attest to.

Are these guys any good?
So much for the firm's biography. What we really want to know about is its resume. When Ardour Capital speaks, should alternative energy investors listen?

The firm's record on CAPS is inconclusive. A focused player, Ardour has not made sufficient picks since we began tracking the company eight months ago to earn a CAPS rating yet. But based on the five picks we are aware of, Ardour seems to be off to a good start:


CAPS Says:

Ardour's Pick Beating
(Lagging) S&P by:

Evergreen Solar



11 points

Plug Power (NASDAQ:PLUG)



2 points

FuelCell Energy



7 points

American Superconductor



5 points

Maxwell Technologies



(11 points)

For those keeping score (meaning us), that works out to a mere 14 points of outperformance to date, but an impressive 80% accuracy rating for Ardour. Probably not enough to get the company a slot in our "Wall Street's Best" club just yet, and extremely subject to change, as the sample size of Ardour's picks increases -- but it's a good start nonetheless. We'll look forward to checking back in on this one once it crosses the seven-pick threshold required to earn an official Motley Fool CAPS rating.

In the meantime, if you'd like to hear from an analyst with an actual measurable rating and an historical record on Capstone, then you need look no further than the company's CAPS page. There you'll learn that the Fool's own TMFBent has the pole position on this stock. To learn what he thinks about it, just click here.

And if alternative energy is your thing, don't forget to pick up a free trial subscription to Motley Fool Rule Breakers on your way out. We've got several recommendations right up your alley.

Fool contributor Rich Smith does not own shares of any company named above. You can find him on CAPS, publicly pontificating under the handle TMFDitty, where he's currently ranked 220th out of nearly 27,000 raters. The Fool has a disclosure policy.