Will Wind Blow By Solar in 2010?

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Solar companies seem poised for better performance in 2010. To be honest, for many in the solar sector, the situation could not have gotten much worse than the past year.

Better performance does not connote great, or even good performance, however, when it's relative to what has been a disappointing year, and could even indicate underperformance vs. other forms of alternative energy.

So is the solar sector to be brushed aside in 2010 by the cycling of wind turbines, just as it is sounding bullish comments about its own expected rise?

Last week, the winds of fortune certainly favored wind turbines.

Solar had its usual astronomical one-day pops last week, but they were centered at the smaller end of the market, and in more specialized niches. Akeena Solar ( AKNS) tore through Thursday with a 56% gain after announcing it would be the first solar panel maker to have a do-it-yourself kit available at Lowe's ( LOW). Hoku Scientific ( HOKU) soared 20% on Wednesday after a big boost in its viability when Solarfun Holdings ( SOLF) signed an amended contract, meaning "payday!" for Hoku's uncertain business.

Still, both Hoku and Akeena came back down to earth by the market close on Friday, when Hoku was down more than 5% and Akeena down more than 10%.

The biggest news of the week in alternative energy came courtesy of General Electric ( GE). It may be under financial strain as a financial company, but its wind-turbine affiliate had a watershed win last Thursday, picking up a $1.4 billion contract to supply turbines for a wind farm in Oregon.

A-Power Energy Generation Systems ( APWR) also recently won a big wind farm contract in Texas -- though it still needs many of the approvals that GE already lined up in Oregon. Still, A-Power ended the week with close to an 8% gain on Friday.

United Technologies ( UTC) announced last week that it was taking a 50% stake in UK-listed Clipper Windpower. United was trading near its 52-week high on Friday afternoon.

Most of the solar stocks, on the other hand, traded poorly last week, seemingly tired after several weeks of a sector run-up. An initial public offering in the sector, of Chinese solar company Trony Solar, was even canceled by the New York Stock Exchange ( NYSE).

Most alarming for solar may be the decision by Germany on a reduction to its feed-in tariff subsidy program, which is critical to solar business in the world's largest solar market.

In the long run, both wind and solar expect to be primary components of the renewable energy market of the future -- and there may in fact be plenty of room, and need, for both of their technological solutions.

And let's not forget biofuels either. Last week the U.S. Department of Energy launched a huge funding program for the development of biofuels, one which the government considers the most important step it has taken to developing a commercial biofuels market. Tiny biofuel companies like Green Energy Live ( GELV) became big momentum gainers, and then losers, from the beginning to end of last week.

So for investors looking at their 2010 alternative technology bets, will wind whip solar, or solar ride its momentum past wind, biofuels, etc., making a disappointing 2009 seem like a distant past? Take our poll below, and see the consensus of TheStreet -- and don't be afraid to leave a comment to explain yourself.

For investors looking at their 2010 alternative technology bets, what's the smartest play?

Wind is the 2010 alternative energy bet for the smart investor.
Solar will generate the biggest profits in 2010.
The smart bet splits the 2010 alt. energy portfolio between wind and solar.
It's neither wind nor solar; biofuel will be the 2010 profit center.

-- Reported by Eric Rosenbaum in New York.

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