Royal Dutch Shell has agreed to recommence its investment in solar power generation, as it looks to continue diversifying from its core oil and gas business.

Om Monday the company acquired a stake in a US solar company, 12 years after exiting the sector.
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Shell agreed to buy a 43.86 per cent stake in Silicon Ranch Corporation from funds linked to Partners Group for up to $217m.

It follows soon after a similar move by rival BP, which last month also re-entered the solar sector with the $200m investment in Lightsource.

Nashville, Tennessee-based Silicon Ranch develops, owns and operates solar plants across the United States with a capacity of 880 MW. Shell also has an option to increase its ownership after 2021.

“With this entry into the fast-growing solar sector, Shell is able to leverage its expertise as one of the top three wholesale power sellers in the U.S., while expanding its global New Energies footprint,” Marc van Gerven, Shell vice president of solar, said in a statement.

In November, Shell doubled its planned investment in its new energies division, which focuses on renewables and low carbon technologies, to $1bn-$2bn until 2020.

The investment in renewables far exceeds those of other major oil companies but still represents a fraction of Shell’s overall capital expenditure of around $25bn.

The deal follows a number of recent investments by Shell in the rapidly growing electric vehicle sector, including the acquisition in October of Dutch-based NewMotion. It also purchased British household energy and broadband provider First Utility, targeting a market for its gas supplies which it expects will play a growing role in the transition to low carbon energy sources.

Shell first entered the solar sector when it acquired Siemens Solar in 2002, only to sell the entire business six years later.