The energy giant, SolarCity, has been buying stakes in a group of companies in California’s burgeoning solar energy industry, as the solar energy sector in the United States is undergoing a seismic shift.
The company has announced a total of $15.5 million in capital commitments to companies like SunPower, SunEdison and SunPower America, which together account for more than half of all new U.S. solar power installations, according to an announcement Thursday.
The Canadian-owned company is buying stakes through the SolarCity Investment Corporation, which is the successor to the now-defunct investment company that was created in 2012.
It is one of the largest shareholders in SolarCity as well as a majority stakeholder in SunPower.
The investment company is now led by former chief executive officer Jeff Skilling, who also ran the company for nearly a decade.
SolarCity is one part of the world’s largest installer of solar panels, but the company’s investments in companies like California-based SunPower have been controversial.
The energy company was sued by the U.N. International Labour Organization in 2010 after it agreed to pay $13.8 million to hundreds of thousands of workers in the solar industry, including women and those with disabilities.
SolarCity and SunEdson also faced lawsuits over the payments.
The case ultimately settled for an undisclosed amount and the companies both settled for less than they paid.
The $15-million investment in SolarCities SolarPower division has come in response to a U.K. government crackdown on solar power companies, and is being used to invest in the U