Alternative Energy: Risky Yet Worthwhile Opportunity

I still believe in alternative energy as a strong investment theme over the next ten years. From cars to heating your own home, energy remains one of the most valuable issues to contend with.

Long-time readers of this column know of my affinity for alternative energy, not just because of its environmentally friendly attributes, but also because of its awesome investment potential right now. In previous columns, I’ve mentioned exciting companies like Evergreen Solar and Fuel-Tech N.V. as innovative, wealth-creating enterprises making great products that the world needs.

Demand is only going to increase for solar panels and for pollution reduction equipment. Nowadays, if you aren’t doing business in China, you are really hurting your business. In particular, China is beginning to address its staggering pollution problem and there is great opportunity for pollution control companies that make the right connections in that country.

Closer to home, a new “hot” stock right now is SunPower Corp. (NASDAQ/SPWR). This company recently hit the market with a bang. This well-established company is majority-owned by Cypress Semiconductor Corp. and it has developed solar energy technology that is said to deliver some 50% more energy than previous solar cells. Also, the company is manufacturing more attractive solar products for homeowners. This is a consideration as some don’t like to put big, ugly glass rectangles on their roofs. SunPower is trying to address the design issue by making panels that are more aesthetically pleasing.

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The flip side to all this innovation still remains a high level of investment risk. Valuations are high for alternative energy-related stocks, because that is what the marketplace is interested in now. Still, I think this investment theme is going to remain hot for a number of years. Solar energy has been around for quite a while, but now the technology is much more refined and the economies of scale are much more attractive. If you can handle the investment risk, this is a top area of the stock market right now.