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Tickers in this Article: BWEN, RSOL, JASO CLNE
Call it the yin-yang of the stock market. Crude oil prices fall, and alternative energy stocks fade as gas prices at the pump become palatable. Then when crude oil prices rise, alternative energy stocks rally as traders assume the latest surge in fossil fuel prices will push another batch of energy consumers over the proverbial edge once and for all.

The thing is, each ebb and flow does indeed push a few more folks into the green energy fray, and on a net basis, this slow migration is showing up on these companies' bottom lines.

Take, for instance, the recent earnings news from some of the higher-profile renewable energy names. (For more, see Going Green With Exchange-Traded Funds.)

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Four for Four on the Revenue Front
Clean Energy Fuels
(Nasdaq:CLNE) chimed in on the growth front early this week, turning in a 4 cent 'beat' by earnings a loss of only 5 cents per share. Yes, a loss is a loss is a loss, and they always stink; however, the 67% improvement in year-over-year revenue paints a slightly more compelling picture.

Clean Energy Fuels is classified as gas utility, but that description falls short in terms of describing the company's business model. The company provides natural gas fuel for natural gas-powered vehicles. In the earnings conference call, CEO Andrew Littlefair specifically noted that with diesel fuel at $4.50 per gallon versus the equivalent unit price of $2.27, fleet managers were again motivated to start taking drastic action.

Real Goods Solar (Nasdaq:RSOL) didn't appear to make any earnings progress on a per-share basis (and EPS of $0.00 now versus the same a year earlier), but a closer look at all the numbers reveals that there is indeed growth here. This micro-cap manufacturer and installer of turnkey solar power systems saw a 16% bump in sales, and more than doubled its net income.

JA Solar (Nasdaq:JASO) posted some big growth in its first quarter numbers as well. Revenue almost doubled on a year-over-year basis, allowing the company to post per-share income of 41 cents rather than the anticipated 32 cents.

The big winner, however, was Broadwind Energy's (Nasdaq:BWEN) Q1 update. The 4 cents per-share loss was twice as big as the expected loss for wind turbines and components. But, revenues doubled to $43.5 million, easily topping the anticipated $38.9 million. The current backlog now stands at $227 million.

How does a company double year-over-year revenue? Broadwind said demand for towers and gearboxes was just that strong. (For more, see Spotlight On The Solar Industry.)

The Common Element
To be fair, it's not as if every solar panel maker or clean fuel producer hit a homerun last quarter. And yes, we're still seeing losses from many of them, which doesn't exactly scream 'long-term viability'. The top line is the hard part to muster though, and many of these names that did well on the sales front did very well ... too well to simply dismiss as luck or a freak occurrence.

What's most interesting about the dynamic, however, is what was mentioned above; each wave of higher oil prices seems to make alternative energy stocks less of an alternative and more of a mainstream (and profitable) idea.

JA Solar, for instance, posted record profits last year, and considering its first quarter results, is on pace to give us another record-beaker in 2011. Broadwind isn't profitable yet, but the long streak of shrinking losses is on pace to get over the profitability hump this year and finally get the company into the black. Real Good Solar and Clean Energy Fuels are also finally seeing a light of profitability at the end of a long tunnel of losses and are expected to be profitable by 2012. (For more, see A Solar-Powered Home: Will It Pay Off?)

The Bottom Line
It's more than safe to say the industry has fully shed its novelty/curiosity status. These arenas are now of 'buy and hold' caliber. Like all industries, though, some names are better than others. The four above are among the better ones in the alternative energy group. (For more, see Forget Green Stocks, "Green" Will Do.)

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