Helion, the clean energy company with its eye firmly on the fusion prize, announced a couple of years ago that it had secured $2.2 billion of funding to help it develop cleaner, safer energy at a commercial scale in November 2021. Today, it is starting to reap the fruits of its labor, announcing an agreement to provide Microsoft with electricity from its first fusion power plant, with Constellation serving as the power marketer and managing the transmission for the project.
Fusion has been the energy goal for over 60 years, as it produces next to no waste or radioactivity while processing and is far less risky than fission. But achieving the same process that occurs in stars has proved mighty difficult to contain, with it taking more energy to keep the reaction under control than it can generate. Progress has been slow and steady, with the potential rewards keeping companies such as Helion focused on the reaction. Helion has been working on its fusion technology for over a decade. To date, it has built six working prototypes and it expects its seventh prototype to demonstrate the ability to produce energy in 2024.
With this in mind, Helion’s plant is expected to be online by 2028 and has a power generation target of 50MW, or greater, with a one-year ramp-up period. While that might seem a long way into the future still, it’s significantly sooner than the projections had suggested.
“This collaboration represents a significant milestone for Helion and the fusion industry as a whole,” said David Kirtley, CEO at Helion, in a statement to TechCrunch. “We are grateful for the support of a visionary company like Microsoft. We still have a lot of work to do, but we are confident in our ability to deliver the world’s first fusion power facility.”
The possibility that an almost limitless source of energy without carbon emissions or toxic waste is now a step closer to reality is both hugely exciting and important for the planet.
“We are optimistic that fusion energy can be an important technology to help the world transition to clean energy,” said Brad Smith, vice chair and president at Microsoft. “Helion’s announcement supports our own long-term clean energy goals and will advance the market to establish a new, efficient method for bringing more clean energy to the grid, faster.”
“Constellation is committed to innovation and supporting next-generation clean energy technologies to combat the climate crisis, and fusion would be a game-changer,” said Jim McHugh, chief commercial officer at Constellation. “Combined with our hourly carbon-free energy matching solution, Helion and Microsoft are helping to build a future where carbon-free energy is the standard.”
There are some rather hopeful stars burning on the energy horizon, it would seem.