With the economy slowing, many companies are reporting sluggish earnings. But the outlook is not all bleak. Innovative producers are gaining market share. And in some businesses, sales are soaring, says portfolio manager Kevin Landis.

To achieve winning results, Landis looks for companies that benefit from being in niches that seem poised to grow.

For instance, wind and solar power sources have become competitive with traditional energy sources. That is helping to boost sales of companies that benefit from the rising appeal of alternative energy. Once fledgling operations, many solar and wind power producers are emerging as strong businesses with solid earnings growth. Landis’ favorite stocks that benefit from alternative energy operations…

Cypress Semiconductor Corporation (CY). The semiconductor maker has been expanding into alternative energy, producing cells used to generate solar power. Sales are climbing as the cost of solar cells decline, helping to increase demand. Cypress also owns a majority stake in SunPower Corporation, which makes solar electric products. Recent share price: $28.66.

Vestas Wind Systems A/S (VWDRY.PK). This Danish company is the largest producer of wind turbines, with 35,000 installed around the world. A new factory in Colorado will boost sales in the US and abroad. Recent share price: $44.50.

Bottom Line interviewed Kevin Landis, portfolio manager of the Firsthand Technology Value Fund (TVFQX) and Firsthand Alternative Energy Fund (ALTEX), which was launched in October. Firsthand Technology Value had annualized returns of 16.9% for the five-year period through March 31, about four percentage points above the Morningstar, Inc. average for technology funds.