22. American Superconductor (NASDAQ:AMSC) offers a variety of technologies and products that are used at both ends of the electrical grid and everywhere in between. The company’s growth derives from the boom in alternative energy generation, particularly wind power, that needs to be connected to a national grid. One estimate of the amount needed to upgrade the US electricity grid totes up to $915 billion between now and 2030.
And American Superconductor is not focusing only on the US market. The company did 87% of its business internationally in 2009 and has paid special attention to the wind power markets in China and India. China expects to increase its wind generation capacity by a factor of four by 2020. There are huge opportunities here, and American Superconductor is well-placed to take advantage of them.
The company’s high temperature superconducting wires carries more than 150 times the power of plain copper wire, and American Superconductor claims that it supplied about 80% of this type of wire used in product development and demonstration projects over the past few years. The company recently announced an order for about 1,800 miles of its high temperature cables for delivery to a South Korean firm beginning in 2012. This is very likely just the company’s first significant order.
Others to Watch
23. Cree Inc. (NASDAQ:CREE) manufactures LED chips, LED components, LED lighting, and other products that are just beginning to gain a toehold in the market. The ubiquitous 100-watt incandescent light bulb will be a thing of the past in the US beginning in 2012. Consumers will need to replace them with compact fluorescent and LED lighting. Right now CFLs have a significant cost advantage over LEDs, but costs for LED lighting are falling fast as the big players light Phillips and General Electric get in the game.
A 40-watt LED bulb consumes only 9 watts of electricity, but it could cost about $50 or more. It would, however, last for more than 20 years. LED lights use a semiconductor chip to create light, not a burning filament like incandescent bulbs or a burning gas as with fluorescents.
Cree’s total revenue for its recently ended 2010 fiscal year was about $877 million. General Electric posted sales of nearly $3 billion in its lighting unit in its most recent fiscal year. That’s a big difference, but not as big as it could be. Cree’s problem will be to get its costs down as quickly as the big guys can and gets its output up to match theirs. They’ve got a very good chance.
24. Bloom Energy (privately held) is the celebrity among the 100 or so companies working on fuel cells. A profile of the company of CBS’s “60 Minutes” earlier this year spotlighted Bloom’s solid oxide fuel cell. The company uses plain sand baked into a slab and then coated with a “secret sauce”. The coated slabs are packaged up into modules, connected to a fuel line, and switched on. The company’s “energy server” generates 100 kWh of electricity, enough to power about 100 average homes or a small office building for a year. Carbon dioxide emissions are cut by about 40% per kWh if natural gas is used and 100% (carbon-neutral) if biogas is used.
The company has a number of high-profile customers, including Google, Wal-Mart, Safeway, and Adobe Systems, and has attracted some $400-$450 million in venture funding over a period of about eight years. The company also faces substantial competition from larger companies and a number of start-ups offering different fuel cell technologies.
Bloom’s immediate goal is to ramp production to one of its energy servers per day within the next few months. The company is also developing a unit to power a single house that it hopes to sell for about $3,000.