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There's an incredible omen for renewable energy stocks heading into 2021, setting it up to be a landmark year for the sector.
The International Energy Agency (IEA) said the per-watt cost of solar electricity finally fell below fossil fuels last year.
As if that weren't enough, wind and solar companies expect support from the new presidential administration. The Biden platform includes a plan to create 10 million clean energy jobs.
By 2025, the renewables sector is expected to hit $1.5 trillion value, up 61% from $928 billion in 2017. After that, renewables will have achieved a firm footing in regular society. Growth will be exponential.
Renewables are the future.
But investors don't have to wait to find profits. A select group of renewable energy stocks could explode much higher and much faster than the rest of the industry.
Analysts call it a "leapfrog" over existing energy models.
That could send one renewable energy stock near doubling over the next year.
Blowing Away the Competition
You've probably seen wind turbines in rural areas, covering fields on the side of the road. From a distance, you've maybe wondered how big they are.
And size matters.
Whoever says otherwise hasn't heard of a certain wind turbine spinning over the mouth of Rotterdam Harbor in the Netherlands.
The average U.S. wind turbine is 466 feet tall. This one reaches 853 feet, about two-thirds the height of the empire state building.
Its size enables it to catch a lot of wind. Of course, you also get room for additional sensors for wind speeds, electricity output, and other diagnostics.
One average turbine used to power a little over 300 households. A Haliade-X produces 13 megawatts of power, enough for about 12,000 homes. That's a small town running on one turbine.
Now, imagine those at scale.
This one is a test model for future GE wind turbines. It invokes the old GE slogan, "Imagination at Work," as its capacity is unlike anything the industry has seen before.
But while size matters, it's not everything.
You could have all the giant propellers in the world and still you would have to reckon with one major question: Where do you put it?
Can GE Put Wind Turbines in the Ocean?
You've heard of offshore drilling. Well, there's a "clean alternative" to that. Down the road, expect wind turbines to transition from land-based to offshore.
These started to pop up as early as 1991 in Denmark. Today, offshore wind turbines stand over the East Coast of the United States as well as places in China, Taiwan and South Korea.
There's competition to be an offshore energy provider, make no mistake. You have oil giants like BP Plc. (NYSE: BP) and Royal Dutch Shell Plc. (NYSE: RDS.A) both investing in offshore wind projects. Total capital investment in the sector has more than tripled to $26 billion in the last 10 years.
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The difference with GE is that the company's test model Haliade-X produces 30 times more electricity than the earliest offshore machines. And its competition may have trouble catching up.
Vestas Wind Systems AS ADR (OTCMKTS: VWDRY) had the biggest turbine prior to GE Now, it will need to go back to the drawing board and build a bigger one.
To be fair, doubting GE was initially common sense. The company best known for powering aircraft, selling lightbulbs and home appliances is basically "starting from scratch" in the renewable energy field.
It's been more than lucky, however. Besides building a highly effective wind turbine, its smart play in the industry could point to future success.
Why GE Could Dominate Renewable Energy
Yes, bigger wind turbines mean greater cost savings. It means you have to build fewer turbines for a given amount of power.
But GE has even drilled deeper for cost savings in this industry. It was the lucky winner of Enron's land-based turbines at a bankruptcy auction in 2002. It paid $325 million for the business, beating out Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) and other big names.
Management is turning that investment into more cash. A Danish company called Orsted has agreed to buy 90 turbines from GE to prop near Atlantic City, N.J.
According to The New York Times, Orsted is the "world's largest developer of offshore wind farms." GE also has a 276-turbine deal with the world's largest wind farm, Dogger Bank, near the UK.
With all the groundwork it's laid for a wind energy segment, GE is ready to roll. Here's why you should look into buying GE sooner than later.
Why GE Stock Is a Renewable Energy Buy
GE stock has had a bumpy road over the last few decades.
The company had a 100-year run on the Dow Jones Industrial Average before it was booted in 2018. Its stock dropped to $9 from its July 2000 peak of $55.
GE had spent 30 years building up to a massive appliance, medical, and financial conglomerate. Over that time, its value quintupled from $25 billion to $130 billion.
But come the 2008 financial crisis, the company was spread thin. Its stock dropped 42%. Its dividend was chopped, and the company went back to focus on manufacturing.
The COVID-19 crash was not any kinder to GE. Its most profitable segment, aviation, tanked. And GE stock lost 53% of its price.
If you look at the big picture, GE went from being one of the most reliable stocks on the market to a bottom dweller. And it now faces the familiar problem of venturing into new territory in uncertain times.
Sometimes you have to "see the trees for the forest," however. Counter to how that phrase is normally used, details matter.
The difference today is that manufacturing power technologies is closer to GE's wheelhouse than finance. "Electric" is in its name.
And the company appears to have approached this market rationally. It already has relationships with key players in the energy business.
Now, it is spending about $400 million on new turbine factories in France. It bought LM Wind Power in 2016 for $1.7 billion, which will supply the giant blades for the new turbines.
If there was any question whether GE could manufacture its giant turbines at scale, or if the company was spreading itself thin, GE has at least openly answered that question.
Offshore wind turbines have been a calculated effort 20 years in the making for GE. The company has done everything imaginable to build a solid base.
Meanwhile, it has been restructuring its company, shedding weight where necessary in lieu of COVID-19 flight restrictions.
The vaccines on the way, of course, will boost the aviation segment and have the company running on all cylinders.
Still, it is hard to overemphasize the growth opportunities for GE at the ground floor of renewable energy. One of its chief executives said the market outlook "gets bigger every year."
It's not farfetched to consider its offshore wind segment could even supplant losses from the airline industry.
The company still has operations in 130 countries and 200,000 employees, at $102 billion market cap. It's well positioned to dominate offshore wind, a rising trend in renewable energy investment.
An analyst from Global Equities Research gives GE a price target of $21 by next year. That makes the current $12 price for GE stock dirt cheap right now - a 75% potential return.
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About the Author
Mike Stenger, Associate Editor for Money Morning at Money Map Press, graduated from the Perdue School of Business at Salisbury University. He has combined his degree in Economics with an interest in emerging technologies by finding where tech and finance overlap. Today, he studies the cybersecurity sector, AI, streaming, and the Cloud.