NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Alternative energy may at last have its time in the spotlight. With BP's (BP) (BP) oil disaster painting a dismal picture for the fossil fuel industry and Washington lawmakers gearing up to do battle over energy reform, exchange-traded funds such as First Trust ISE-Global Wind Energy Index Fund (FAN) could get a legislative lift.
One facet of the green energy industry which has recently received its fair share of press has been wind power. Thanks to a large injection of funding, the ground has been broken on what is considered to be the largest wind-farm project in the United States. This plant, located in the Mojave Desert, is set to cover thousands of acres of land and provide enough energy to power hundreds of thousands of homes.
The ETF market boasts a plethora of funds offering exposure to wind power companies as well as the broader alternative energy sector. But for true wind energy bulls, only two funds matter: PowerShares Global Wind Energy Portfolio (PWND) and First Trust ISE-Global Wind Energy Index Fund.
Although the two funds have similar goals, their internal structures have some differences.Investors choosing PowerShares Global Wind Energy Portfolio opt to follow the Nasdaq OMX Clean Edge Global Wind Energy Index. This basket is comprised of 36 individual companies selected from around the globe. Geographically, the largest percentage of this index is in Spain and France. Top holdings include Iberdrola, EDP Renovaveis, Vestas Wind Energy, and China Longyuan Power. Together, these four positions make up more than 40% of the fund's total index. That's an unnervingly top-heavy fund. First Trust ISE-Global Wind Energy Index Fund, which tracks the ISE Global Wind Energy Index, boasts a list of top positions nearly identical to that of PowerShares Global Wind Energy Portfolio. However, the First Trust fund is far less concentrated, dedicating only 28% of its assets to its top four holdings. Geographically, the fund's top countries include Spain and Germany. The First Trust ISE-Global Wind Energy Index Fund is also the cheaper of the two options, boasting a 0.60% expense ratio vs. the 0.75% expense ratio of the PowerShares fund. Over the past three months, the more concentrated PowerShares Global Wind Energy Portfolio has dipped slightly more than 11%, beating out its competitor, which has tumbled close to 14%. Both products are effective in their ability to provide investors with pure-play exposure to the wind energy industry. However, they both have issues that are cause for concern. Most notably is their heavy exposure to the European Union.