Tech giant Microsoft announced an agreement to source energy from the clean energy startup Helion’ planned fusion power plant, anticipated to be the world’s first, coming online by 2028.
According to Helion co-founder and CEO David Kirtley, the deal marks a significant milestone for the company, and for fusion-based power generally, seen by many industry participants as an important contributor to global decarbonization goals, but in only the earliest stages of advancing towards commercialization.
“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.”
Fusion, the process of combining two atoms to form a single atom to release energy, has been long referred to as the “Holy Grail” of clean and abundant energy production, given its potential to produce power from hydrogen – the most common element in the universe – without producing carbon emissions associated with fossil-fuel based power, and without the highly radioactive output of nuclear fission processes. Large scale fusion energy generation has been elusive, however, given the need to create extremely high temperatures and pressure.
Founded in 2013, Helion’s approach to fusion generation includes technologies such as the use of a pulsed non-ignition fusion system to overcome some of the physics challenges of fusion and the use of deuterium and helium-3 as fuel. Helium-3’s properties enable smaller and more efficient systems, but the element has historically been very difficult to produce. Helion can produce Helium-3 utilizing a patented process that fuses deuterium in its plasma accelerator.
Helion is currently working on its seventh fusion prototype, which it expects to demonstrate the ability to produce electricity next year. Its first plant, slated to open in 2028 is expected to generate at least 50 MW of power one year after rollout.
The deal would also provide an additional avenue for Microsoft to achieve its own climate goals, including its targets to achieve carbon negative status by 2030 and its “100/100/0” vision to have 100% of its electricity consumption, 100% percent of the time, matched by purchases from zero carbon energy sources.
Brad Smith, Vice Chair and President at Microsoft, said:
“We are optimistic that fusion energy can be an important technology to help the world transition to clean energy. 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.”