Wind energy accounted for only about 5% of the energy produced last year, but the American Wind Energy Association suggests that this number will surge to 20% by the end of the next decade. By comparison, solar energy accounts for less than 1% of all U.S. energy production. (See also: The Current State of the Solar Energy Industry.)

And that 5% isn't as insignificant as it seems – it's enough to power nearly 17.5 million homes. Last year, Iowa produced more than 30% of its energy from wind, while South Dakota and Kansas topped 20%. Globally, there's even more room for growth – the International Energy Agency reported that wind is on target to reach 18% of the world's energy production by 2050.

However, there's a definite hazard for investors seeking exposure to wind in that, unlike solar energy, there are very few pure-play wind energy companies. Most of the major players in the sector actually operate their wind energy business as a division or a subsidiary, such as General Electric Company's (GE) Renewable Energy division. Siemens AG (SIEGY) is widely known for its medical imaging equipment, but its recent merger with Gamesa Corporacion Tecnologica, S.A. (GCTAF) makes it another major wind energy player.

Fortunately, there are other ways to get a piece of the wind energy pie if you're looking for growth opportunities. Offshore wind farms, where most industry watchers are predicting growth, require more than just wind turbines. Heavy-duty submarine cables are necessary to connect the turbines to shore, and specialized underwater infrastructure must be built to support them. (See also Clean or Green Technology Investing.)

If you're looking for ways to get into the wind energy space, here are three companies you may want to consider.

Note: All figures are accurate as of July 10, 2017.

General Electric Company (GE)

No list of wind stocks would be complete without this behemoth. This blue-chip stock has a market cap of $227 billion and posted revenue of $123.69 billion in 2016. GE has a global presence in the wind energy market, and its recent $13 billion acquisition of Alstom SA's (ALSMY) power and grid business makes it a major player in gas turbines. The company aims to solidify its position as a wind leader, announcing another planned acquisition – LM Wind Power – for $1.7 billion.

As of July 10, GE stock was trading at $26.06, a decrease of 19% over the past 12 months. The company has a solid dividend yield, averaging about 3.5%, or about $1 per share. GE shares have a 12-month median price target of $32.50, implying potential upside of 24%, and a 52-week range of $25.85 to $33. (See also: General Electric Stock Could Rise More Than 30%.)

Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWDRY)

If your heart is set on a pure play in wind, Vestas will get you there. The company is 100% focused on wind energy and recently toppled Xinjiang GoldWind Science and Technology Co., Ltd. (XJNGF) in China for the title of largest wind turbine manufacturer in the world. Vestas is headquartered in Denmark, but it manufactures turbines at facilities in Colorado. It has a market cap of about $20 billion, up from $14 billion over the past six months.

As of July 10, Vestas stock was trading at $31.63, up nearly 44% over the past 12 months, with a 52-week range of $18.55 to $31.58. (See also: Vestas Wind Systems: Time to Invest?)

General Cable Corporation (BGC)

This may be an odd choice to round out the top wind energy stock picks, but since pure-play offshore wind is impossible to find, the company that manufactures underwater cables can get you into offshore wind tangentially. General Cable is a leading manufacturer of fiber-optic wires and cables for the energy industry with an emphasis on submarine infrastructure. The Kentucky-based company has been around for 170 years and has a market cap of $811.5 million.

General Cable reported revenue of $3.86 billion in 2016. As of July 10, the stock was trading at $16.23, which equates to an increase of 24% over the past 12 months. It is currently trading in the middle of its 52-week range of $11.70 to $20.80. (For related reading, check out: US Military Moves Ahead With Renewable Energy Plan.)

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