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While fuel cell stocks have done little to create shareholder wealth thus far, it may finally be time to reconsider the industry. Solar energy has historically been the darling of the elusively successful alternative energy sector, though it has seldom provided long returns. Case in point, the overoptimistic 2007 year saw shares of top solar stocks soar to $30 and above only to return to a fraction of these share prices shortly. The economic onslaught of the years following plus premature optimism in a growing technology has deteriorated the value in solar and many other green industries today.

Whereas economical growth's complexity is not always linear, scientific progress in technology seldom regresses. Now is possibly the time to investigate some good opportunities in both solar and fuel cell energy for 2012 and beyond. A diversified green portfolio should consist of solar, which has seen a return of confidence, and fuel cells which are viable especially in industrial applications in which excess hydrogen byproducts can be tapped for cheap if not free energy.

The following data tracks top solar companies over the course the past 5 years. Despite the 2012 data already showing positive returns, these stocks have a lot of room to grow to their heights of earlier years and may sustain with the support from technologies many years improved. Coupled with due diligence, an assortment of these stocks could serve to diversify and strengthen a portfolio.

Solar Rise Fall and Return

Company1/3/07

PPS

1/2/08

PPS

1/2/12

PPS

2007 Return2008-2012 Return2/21/12

PPS

2012 YTD Return
First Solar (FSLR)30.1726935+791%-87%42.38+21%
SunPower (SPWR)37.17131.116.48+253%-95%8.61+33%
Suntech Power (STP)34.3083.732.28+144%-97%3.69+62%
JA Solar Holdings (JASO)19.0670.721.39+271%-98%2.14+54%
LDK Solar (LDK)(Jun 1)

28.00

51.114.35+83%-91%6.18+42%
Yingli Green Energy (YGE)(Jun 8)

10.80

39.013.93+261%-90%4.81+22%
Trina Solar (TSL)19.1554.796.91+186%-87%10.33+49%

Why consider fuel cells today? The industry is lighter on debt and appears to have learned from the oversupply in the solar sector of 2007. Fuel cells have not seen a stellar year since early 2000 and have been largely forgotten, making them more a risk but offering a large upside. Industrial targets offer fuel cell companies consumers which already produce hydrogen fuel an option to make a waste product useful. There are also many types of fuel cells offering many options for a diversified portfolio.

Despite lack of follow through to increasingly promising technology and sales, Ballard Power (BLDP) may provide a very exciting update on February 23rd and is one to keep an eye on. Though Ballard's Q4 EBITDA positive quarter may be pushed back into 2012, there is no reason yet to believe that they could not reach their goal of providing four consecutive quarters of positive EBITDA in 2012. FuelCell Energy (FCEL) is another small company that has seen a large increase in 2012.

The following data shows the trend in the fuel cell industry over the past 5 years. While these companies are smaller in nature, due diligence should be exercised as there is more inherent risk. A portfolio that entertains some risk would want to consider diversifying into this sector.

Fuel Cell's Regression and Rebound

Company1/3/07

PPS

1/2/08

PPS

1/2/12

PPS

2007 Return2008-2012 Return2/21/12

PPS

2012 YTD Return
Ballard Power5.705.301.14-7%-78%1.63+30%
FuelCell Energy6.5010.000.87+54%-91%1.47+69%
Hydrogenics (HYGS)26.7515.005.63-78%-62%5.50-2%
Plug Power (PLUG)36.0027.402.06-24%-92%2.33+13%

Solar appears to be opening the door now not only for its own sector but also for fuel cells, which do not have as much of the hangover from 2007. Fuel cell companies have the added advantage of learning from solar's rise and fall in recent years to avoid the same fate. With less debt and overextension, adding a fuel cell company to your portfolio brings an interesting opportunity.

Both fuel cell energy and solar energy have their detractors. When the number one company in the world, Apple (AAPL), is investing in solar and fuel cell power however, maybe you should consider it also. If that is not enough evidence that fuel cells have a place in the future, you might want to consider why such companies as Coke (KO), eBay (EBAY), and Wal-Mart (WMT) are also purchasers as well.

Source: Solar And Fuel Cell Plays To Consider Now