Wind energy accounted for only about 5% of the energy produced in 2016, 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.

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 Siemens Gamesa Renewable Energy, S.A. 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 Dec. 12, 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 $153.149 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 acquisition – LM Wind Power – for $1.7 billion in April 2017.

As of Dec. 12, 2017, GE stock was trading at approximately $17.66, a decrease of roughly 44% over the past 12 months. The company recently cut its dividend in half, but it still offers a decent dividend yield of about 2.71%, or $0.48 per share. GE shares have a 12-month median price target of $21.99, implying potential upside of more than 24%, and the stock is trading very close to the low end of its 52-week range of $17.46 to $32.38. (See also: GE Cuts Its Dividend by 50% to $0.12.)

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. 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.

Vestas has a market cap of about $13.092 billion. As of Dec. 12, Vestas stock was trading at $21.13, with a 52-week range of $18.55 to $32.94. According to a Bloomberg article from October, Vestas recently partnered with Tesla, Inc. (TSLA) on a $160 million project in Australia that will integrate wind, solar and battery storage technologies. (See also: Vestas Wind Systems: Time to Invest?)

Pattern Energy Group Inc. (PEGI)

Pattern Energy Group is the owner of 20 wind power facilities – including one project that the company has agreed to acquire – located in the U.S., Canada and Chile. The San Francisco-based firm is dedicated to generating power in an environmentally responsible fashion, and it sells electricity and renewable energy credits to local utilities. In the beginning of December 2017, Goldman Sachs analysts upgraded Pattern Energy shares to Buy, stating that the stock could be poised to overcome its recent underperformance.

As of Dec. 12, 2017, Pattern Energy shares are trading at $21.21, which equates to a gain of around 6.5% over the past 12 months. However, the stock price has declined over 20% since reaching highs of $26.56 in September 2017. As highlighted by Goldman's recent upgrade, the recent pullback may offer investors an attractive entry point to purchase shares in this renewable energy company. (For more, see: Top 5 Alternative Energy ETFs.)

The Bottom Line

Although it is difficult to find investment opportunities that focus exclusively on wind energy, the companies on this list provide exposure to a segment that could continue to grow for the rest of this year and into the future. As renewable energy continues to become more prevalent and affordable, these stocks could bring windfall profits to your portfolio. (For more, see: Why You Should Invest in Green Energy Right Now.)

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