April 14, 2012, 7:12 AM — Apple's fuel cell facility, which is expected to begin generating power for iCloud's data centre in June, has caused a conflict of interest for Apple and Al Gore, former Vice President of the US and Apple board member.
Fox News reports that the conflict has occurred because Apple plans to fuel the new data centre with hydrogen power units from Bloom Energy, a power company that Gore has connections with. This could lead to financial gain for Gore, which in turn means a conflict of interest.
According to the report, the National Center for Public Policy Research believes that the more environmentally friendly power source from Bloom may not benefit the planet as much as it will benefit Gore.
"Fuel cells are among the world's most expensive forms of generating electricity," said Tom Borelli, Ph.D., director of the National Center's Free Enterprise Project. "Apple buying technology from Bloom Energy, where Gore has a financial stake, is a clear conflict of interest."
Gore sits on the board of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Buyers, a backer of Bloom Energy. "This is a clear conflict of interest. Al Gore's investment and his partners' investment in Bloom Energy should not be enhanced by Apple's investment strategy."
The Motley Fool reports that Borelli wrote, in a press release notifying Apple shareholders of the potential conflict of interest: "Shareholders must question why Apple is choosing to pay a premium for alternative energy when there are many sources of cheaper energy available in North Carolina, such as coal."
The $1 billion data centre built by Apple in Maiden, North Carolina, to support iCloud, Siri and iTunes services, has already sparked debates about the environmental impact and the effect on the local residents.
However, one couple struck gold when Apple paid them $1.7 million for their land in order to build the data centre in Maiden. Donnie and Kathy Fulbright turned Apple down twice, but the company told the couple to name their price. Apple is thought to have chosen Maiden because it has the cheapest power rates in the nation.