NEWS | August 9, 2023
Microsoft is planning to bring fusion power to the grid. The computer manufacturer has signed a power purchase agreement with Washington-based energy company Helion Energy for the first commercial fusion reactor. By 2028, it is expected to be connected to the Washington power grid, generating up to 50 megawatts of power. That’s roughly equivalent to the output of 10 wind turbines, so it’s not a huge amount. But it’s a promising start!
Helion is committed to delivering on time, which is a daring undertaking. Currently, the newly developed plasma accelerator does not produce as much energy as is invested in the fusion process. However, achieving that goal is just a matter of time. Recently, researchers achieved this milestone with a reactor based on neodymium lasers (as we reported).
In fusion, hydrogen atoms are fused to form a plasma that releases energy. The steam generated at temperatures between 60 and 100 million degrees Celsius can drive a multitude of turbines. The true charm of fusion lies in the fact that the hydrogen used in this process is the simplest and most abundant element in the universe. This technology has the potential to produce extremely cost-effective electricity. Helion Energy’s goal is to eventually offer a kilowatt-hour for just one cent. The implications for our lives are beyond the grasp of our energy-scarcity-programmed brains.
Similar to the well-known tokamak reactors, Helion Energy’s plasma accelerator also relies on magnetic coils to contain the plasma. Suitable magnets for this purpose need to be very strong, containing neodymium oxide and gadolinium oxide. For those looking to invest in fusion as the energy of the future, these two elements present a great opportunity, along with the potential for attractive tax-free returns.