Investor's Guide to What's Green

A look at companies with a stake in clean energy.

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Greenish Big Players

Midsize Mainstays

Up-and-Comers

ABB

Why it's green: The key here is energy efficiency. The Swiss transmission and automation giant makes systems that cut industrial energy use.

Key fact: ABB recently hired Joseph Hogan, a GE veteran, possibly to find a use for its $5.5 billion in cash. Analysts see it snapping up smaller rivals.

APPLIED MATERIALS

Why it’s green: The world’s biggest chip-equipment maker is leveraging its experience making flat-panel displays to produce thin-film solar panels.

Key fact: Results from the company’s chip business have been weak. Meanwhile, Applied’s growing solar-power business is expected to turn profitable in 2009.

FPL GROUP

Why it’s green: Florida Power & Light’s energy unit recently tapped SunPower to build the largest U.S. solar installation.

Key fact: FPL is also a big player in wind, and new installations have helped support earnings despite a slow Florida economy. It plans to add 1,100 to 1,300 megawatts of wind power this year.

GENERAL ELECTRIC

Why it’s green: GE kicked off its “ecomagination” initiative in 2005. Next year, it plans to sell $20 billion worth of wind turbines, efficient appliances, solar panels, and other green products.

Key fact: Green energy is one of the few bright spots for the listing GE, whose shares are near a five-year low.

INTEL

Why it’s green: The chip giant is building cleaner factories, energy-efficient data centers, and low-power chips.

Key fact: Intel is also the nation’s largest corporate buyer of green power, purchasing over 1.3 billion kWh of renewable-energy certificates, according to the EPA.

MEMC ELECTRONIC MATERIALS

Why it’s green: The tight market for silicon is good news for this leading maker of silicon wafers for the solar and semiconductor industries because it has locked in long-term contracts at attractive prices.

Key fact: The company aims to have nearly quadrupled its 2005 production capacity by 2010.

PHILIPS ELECTRONICS

Why it’s green: This Dutch consumer electronics giant, the world’s largest lighting manufacturer, has bolstered its position in energy-efficient lighting by acquiring companies with advanced technology.

Key fact: Sales in emerging markets rose 16 percent in the second quarter, fueled by strong growth in lighting and TVs.

SIEMENS

Why it’s green: This German engineering and electronics company has its hands in everything from wind turbine production to wave-power generation.

Key fact: To become more efficient, Siemens is cutting jobs, consolidating businesses, and streamlining operations to save $1.8 billion by 2010.

COVANTA HOLDING

Why it’s green: Covanta, which turns municipal solid waste into renewable fuel, operates more than 30 facilities in North America, Europe, and Asia.

Key fact: The company expects 2008 earnings growth of 6 to 18 percent.

ENERGY CONVERSION DEVICES

Why it’s green: The company sells thin-film solar laminates through its United Solar Ovonic unit. General Motors recently tapped the firm to build the world’s largest rooftop power generation system in Spain.

Key fact: While its shares have already more than doubled this year, analysts expect more gains. Quarterly revenue of $70 million was up 155 percent from 2007.

FIRST SOLAR

Why it’s green: This thin-film solar panel maker has sidestepped the polysilicon supply crunch by making cells out of cadmium telluride, which is also cheaper.

Key fact: The company recently won approval from California regulators to build the state’s first thin-film photovoltaic solar power plant. It will sell electricity to Southern California Edison in a 20-year deal.

FUEL TECH

Why it’s green: The company’s main business is pollution-control equipment for utilities and industrial firms. It also runs a fast-growing fuel-treatment business.

Key fact: Fuel Tech aims to boost revenues by 10 percent to 16 percent in 2008.

ITRON

Why it’s green: The Liberty Lake, Wash., company makes smart meters for electricity, water, gas, and heat. It’s angling to become your remote meter maid.

Key fact: With a global presence following its 2007 buy of meter hardware maker Actaris, the company is set to extend its 50 percent market share in the North American automated meter market.

JOHNSON CONTROLS

Why it’s green: The Milwaukee-based firm, long a leader in green buildings, is working on batteries for hybrid autos.

Key fact: Boosting buildings’ efficiency provides more than a third of revenue, but the company makes parts for cars and homes—two of the economy’s weak spots. Shares fell when it cut earnings estimates.

ORMAT TECHNOLOGIES

Why it’s green: Ormat develops, builds, and runs geothermal power plants, which use heat from below Earth’s surface to convert water to steam that powers turbines.

Key fact: The company operates a dozen geothermal sites, with about 400 megawatts of generating capacity. It expects to add 111 MW by the end of 2008 and 73 more by the end of 2009, and then maintain a growth rate of at least 100 MW a year in 2010 and beyond.

SUNPOWER

Why it’s green: SunPower, which is majority-owned by Cypress Semiconductor, makes high-efficiency solar cells and solar panels.

Key fact: The company was recently hired by Florida Power & Light to build a 25-MW photovoltaic solar-power plant near Sarasota, Fla. The plant is expected to be the largest in the United States.

SUNTECH POWER HOLDINGS

Why it’s green: This China-based company is on track to become the world’s largest maker of solar cells.

Key fact: Suntech reported a 76 percent jump in revenue in the first quarter and says it expects to hit its production capacity target of 1 gigawatt by the end of 2008.

AKEENA SOLAR

Why it’s green: This Los Gatos, Calif., installer puts solar systems on roofs in California, New York, and elsewhere.

Key fact: The number of solar installations in the United States increased by 24 percent last year to 12,714, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.

CREE

Why it’s green: Lighting gets overlooked in the green discussion, but Cree’s superefficient light-emitting diodes are the cleanest technology around.

Key fact: The LED market will be massive when the residential market opens up, but now Cree mainly illuminates laptops and commercial spaces. Competition is fierce.

EVERGREEN SOLAR

Why it’s green: The Marlboro, Mass., firm makes solar cells using less silicon. It draws sheets of molten silicon between two strings and processes it into cells.

Key fact: Shares have struggled as the company funds its manufacturing base, but Evergreen has a whopping $3 billion backlog of business and expects to turn a profit in early 2009.

FUELCELL ENERGY

Why it’s green: This company makes fuel cells that power large facilities like hotels, universities, and hospitals.

Key fact: Despite rapidly growing sales (revenues tripled in the second quarter compared with the year-earlier period), the company is losing money—an estimated $1.16 per share this fiscal year.

TRINA SOLAR

Why it’s green: The Chinese solar cell and module maker went public in 2006, part of a wave of Asian solar firms to do so.

Key fact: Trina recently offered a brighter outlook for sales, but its shares have slipped on worries that high silicon prices are hurting margins. It supplies cells to France’s LISA Airplanes for the Hy-Bird, an experimental solar- and fuel-cell-powered plane.

YINGLI GREEN ENERGY HOLDING

Why it’s green: This Chinese solar power maker is vertically integrated, with soup-to-nuts factories churning out every part of silicon-based solar systems.

Key fact: Fundamentals look OK, but worries over the cost of polysilicon have weighed heavily on shares this year.

ZOLTEK

Why it’s green: This company makes carbon fiber, a strong, lightweight component of wind-turbine blades.

Key fact: Zoltek aims to hit $500 million in revenues by 2010.