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Buying American Wind

Jeff Siegel | Tuesday April 27th, 2010 | 2 Comments

Growing up in Essex, Maryland — a very blue collar section of Baltimore County — the phrase “Buy American” was more than just a rallying cry for those who championed domestic manufacturing.

It was simply how things were done.

Even when the oil crisis of the 1970s hit, you would’ve been hard-pressed to find a single vehicle on our block that didn’t scream Detroit — regardless of how horrible the fuel economy was on most of those vehicles back then. And for the few who dared to park a smaller, more fuel efficient Japanese car on our street… well, they were nearly shunned.

This was an old U.S. industrial town, with generations upon generations of factory workers raising families and doing the kind of work that most folks couldn’t do for an hour before calling it quits. Buying American was not just something you would say; it was something you had to embrace. Because for these folks, buying American meant job security.

Of course, decades have passed since then. Today, that old street in Essex is lined with Toyotas, Fords, Hondas, and Nissans. And quite a few of those old factories have been leveled or turned into fancy apartment buildings. Yet, the cry to buy American has never gone silent.

In fact, this past weekend I was talking to an old friend who still lives in Essex. He still drives his American car (although it was actually manufactured in Mexico); he reads Green Chip Stocks daily, as he’s a huge advocate of clean energy integration; and he absolutely loves to criticize me for not providing enough coverage on domestic wind energy plays.

But as I constantly remind him, Green Chip readers simply want to know where the money is…

If it’s a domestic opportunity, then that’s fantastic. But we’re sure as hell not going to ignore an opportunity to make money just because a particular company is not based in the U.S.

Besides, most of the strongest domestic wind energy plays are not pure wind plays, anyway.

Although I suppose that doesn’t make them any less worthwhile.

So, in an effort to please my old friend — and any other readers who share his views on domestic wind energy — here are a few domestic wind energy companies that are not pure plays… but that do play a significant role in domestic wind energy expansion.

FPL Group (NYSE: FPL)

Through its NextEra Energy Resources subsidiary, FPL is the largest owner of wind farms in the United States.

According to the American Wind Energy Association, with more than 7,500 megawatts of installed capacity, NextEra provides enough electricity for nearly 2 million households. A decade ago, it boasted less than 500 megawatts. Today, NextEra has about 9,000 wind turbines at 75 wind farms in 17 states and Canada.

General Electric (NYSE: GE)

General Electric ranks number one in U.S. wind turbine sales and is actually one of the largest suppliers of wind turbines in the world, boasting more than 11,600 wind turbine installations that comprise more than 18,000 megawatts of capacity.

The company also just announced that it plans to introduce a 4 MW, gearless wind turbine for offshore use. This is expected to be ready in 2012 and will put GE in direct competition with German wind energy powerhouse, Siemens AG.

There are also a few domestic companies that manufacture wind towers, like Trinity Industries (NYSE: TRN), Ameron International Corporation (NYSE: AMN), and Otter Tail Corporation (NASDAQ: OTTR).

And of course you have companies like:

  • Owens Corning (NYSE: OC) – Manufacturing composites for blades and poles
  • MasTec (NYSE: MTZ) – A specialty contractor
  • Thomas & Betts (NYSE :TNB) – Providing support structures and electronic components
  • American Superconductor (NASDAQ: AMSC)- Providing engineering and control and monitoring systems
  • Broadwind Energy (NASDAQ: BWEN) – Manufacturing components, towers, and transportation services

Who Benefits?

Like my old friend, I’m all for supporting domestic clean energy companies. But that doesn’t mean we should turn a blind eye to those foreign clean energy companies that are employing U.S. citizens.

A few of these include:

  • Gamesa (MCE :GAM)
  • Siemens (NYSE: SI)
  • Vestas (CO: VWS)

While these may not be U.S. companies, they put a hell of a lot of our people to work.

And I don’t know a single person working in manufacturing who’s about to turn down a good-paying job because the folks who own the company don’t hold U.S. passports.

Besides, we’ve had so many opportunities to build out our clean energy economy in the past… And we chose to ignore those opportunities because politics and special interests stood in the way.

This allowed more forward-thinking capitalists in other parts of the world to simply step in and pick up the slack.

Of course, there’s still time for us to get our act together…

With aggressive and responsible clean energy policy in place, we can turn this around. We can take the lead in clean energy development. We can strengthen our economy, put more Americans back to work, and provide a cleaner, safer environment for future generations.

But rest assured, if we don’t do it, someone else will.


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