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. In 2016, 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 is 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. (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 current as of Feb. 9, 2018.

General Electric Company (GE)

No list of wind stocks would be complete without this behemoth. This blue-chip stock has a market cap of $160.954 billion and posted revenue of $123.69 billion in 2016. GE has a global presence in the wind energy market, and its $13 billion acquisition of Alstom SA's (ALSMY) power and grid business made 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 Feb. 9, 2018, GE stock is trading at around $14.70 per share, a decrease of roughly 50% over the past 12 months. The company recently cut its dividend in half, but it still offers a decent dividend yield of 3.32%, or $0.48 per share. GE shares have a 12-month median price target of $19.08, implying potential upside of nearly 30%, and the stock is trading right near the low end of its 52-week range of $14.23 to $30.59. (See also: GE May Be Dropped From Dow: Deutsche Bank.)

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 $14.22 billion. As of Feb. 9, Vestas stock was trading at around $23.40, with a 52-week range of $19.12 to $32.94. According to a Bloomberg article from October of last year, 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 Feb. 9, Pattern Energy shares are trading at $18.56, which equates to a decline of around 7% over the past 12 months. However, it is worth noting that the stock reached highs of $26.56 in September 2017. As highlighted by Goldman's 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 some exposure to a segment that could continue to grow in 2018 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.)

Want to learn how to invest?

Get a free 10 week email series that will teach you how to start investing.

Delivered twice a week, straight to your inbox.