Wind Power Catches A Gust

By Aaron Levitt | January 05, 2011 AAA

As the global economy is beginning once again to heat up and grow, energy is once again back in the spotlight. Oil has moved ever closer to the $100 a barrel mark, coal prices have risen on increased demand and even natural gas has moved upwards due to the cold weather in the northeast. These price increases have made many alternatives economically viable options. Recently, the North American wind sector has seen gusts of bullish activity and represents an interesting long-term option for energy generation and a portfolio position.
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Blowing in the Right Direction
Unlike Europe, which is seeing austerity pressures hurt renewable energy, the wind sector in the United States has recently made some strategic headway in adding more generation capacity. In only seven months of construction, Oklahoma opened its first wind farm capable of producing 152 MW. In addition, utility Duke Energy's (NYSE:DUK) 51 MW Kit Carson wind farm in Colorado was recently completed. Wind turbine giant, Vestas Wind Systems (OTCBB:VWDRY) announced that during 2010, sales in North America hit a new record of 1,883 MW and 871 turbines.

Most recently, the U.S.'s wind sector gained some important backing in the way of a $1.3 billion loan guarantee. Caithness Energy's planned eastern Oregon wind farm would be the world's largest at 845 MW and supply Edison International (NYSE:EIX) with wind energy for 20 years under the current power agreement.

While these developments are certainly steps in the right direction, the U.S. still has plenty of room for wind power to grow. The U.S. Department of Energy's National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) estimates total U.S. offshore wind energy potential at 4,150 gigawatts with nearly 212 GW in easy to get to shallow water. The NREL also estimates that total onshore wind generation potential is approximately 10.5 million MW. The U.S. Department of Energy has set goals towards the development of 10 GW worth of offshore wind by 2020 and nearly 54 GW by 2030. New projects continue to be developed with six GW worth of new farms being proposed along the Atlantic coast, and three GW worth have advanced to the permit process.

A Breezy Portfolio
With wind power gaining traction in the U.S. and across the world, it may be time for investors with long enough timelines to consider the sector. Investors looking for broad access to the sector can choose between the First Trust Global Wind Energy (NYSE:FAN) and PowerShares Global Wind Energy (Nasdaq:PWND). Both offer exposure to various companies associated with the wind sector and have been their shares fall with Europe's woes. For investors preferring the DIY approach, here are some picks.

Small-cap Kaydon Corporation (NYSE:KDN) manufactures ball bearings for various industries, but it is realizing great returns from the wind industry. As one of the major suppliers of parts for the wind turbine producers, Kaydon is seeing increased demand for its bearings as more wind products are built across the globe. Shares of the company yield 2%. Investors can also take bearing and seal maker Federal-Mogul (Nasdaq:FDML) for a spin.

Railcar producer Trinity Industries (NYSE:TRN) has been seeing its star shine as rail traffic has improved. However, the company is also one of the leading producers of wind turbine towers and operates some of largest capacity in the sector. As more wind generation is achieved, so will Trinity's bottom line. Shares of the company yield 1.2%.

Bottom Line
With traditional energy booming right along with the recovering global economy, renewable energy is beginning to make more economic sense. The U.S. wind sector is especially interesting as activity in additional generation capacity is on the rise. Investors with long enough timelines might want to use the sector's recent weakness to establish positions. Companies like Woodward Governor (Nasdaq:WGOV) or the previously mentioned ETFs make ideal ways to play the growth in the sector. (For related reading on green technology, see Clean Or Green Technology Investing.)

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