Microsoft Signs Nuclear Fusion Power Deal

Clean energy development. Helion Energy signs deal to provide clean nuclear fusion energy to Microsoft by 2028

Helion Energy, the Sam Altman (OpenAI’s CEO) backed clean energy provider, is to provide Microsoft with fusion power starting in 2028.

Helion Energy is a private US nuclear fusion company and it announced the deal with Microsoft, will see it provide the software and cloud giant with clean electricity in about five years time.

This is the first such deal for the power source that fuels the sun. Fusion power could be a clean source for the world’s energy needs in the future. Whether it arrives in time to combat climate changes remains to be seen.

Fusion energy

But scientists are working to deploy it as soon as possible.

In February 2022 scientists and engineers running the Joint European Torus (JET) facility in Oxford, UK, announced they achieved a record-breaking 59 megajoules of heat energy from fusion, more than double the previous record achieved by JET.

The experiment lasted 5 seconds, and this was clean energy, as the fusion reactor at JET runs purely on seawater and involves no harmful waste.

Unlike a nuclear power station which splits atoms, the JET reactor squeezes together two forms of hydrogen (deuterium and tritium, extracted from the seawater) until they fuse.

Fusion is inherently safe as it cannot start a run-away process.

Incidentally, film buffs will remember that the “Mr Fusion generator” powers Marty McFly’s flying DeLorean time-machine in the ‘Back To The Future’ movie series. However that fusion reactor ran on rubbish, and not hydrogen from seawater.

Microsoft deal

In its announcement, Helion Energy said it would provide Microsoft electricity from its first fusion power plant.

It said the Helion Energy plant is expected to be online by 2028 and will target power generation of 50 MW or greater after a 1-year ramp up period. One megawatt can supply up to roughly 1,000 US homes on a typical day.

The planned operational date for this first of its kind facility is significantly sooner than typical projections for deployment of commercial fusion power, said the firm.

“This collaboration represents a significant milestone for Helion and the fusion industry as a whole,” said David Kirtley, CEO at Helion. “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.”

Helion is a privately held clean energy company committed to creating a new era of zero-carbon electricity through fusion, has been advancing its fusion technology for more than a decade.

The company has previously built six working prototypes and was the first private fusion company to reach 100-million-degree plasma temperatures with its sixth fusion prototype. The firm is currently building its seventh prototype, which is expected to demonstrate the ability to produce electricity in 2024.

“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.”

Helion has so far raised more than $570 million in private capital, with OpenAI CEO Sam Altman providing $375 million in 2021.

Helion still needs design and construction approvals from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC), as well as local permits.