1 of 2 | U.S-based Helion Energy said it made the first-ever agreement of its kind in reaching a deal to supply Microsoft with fusion power. Photo courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy
May 10 (UPI) -- U.S. nuclear energy company Helion said Wednesday it reached an agreement to provide Microsoft with energy derived from fusion, the first such deal of its kind.
Helion expects a fusion-power facility will be up and running by 2028, churning out an estimated 50 megawatts of power.
"The planned operational date for this first of its kind facility is significantly sooner than typical projections for deployment of commercial fusion power," Helion stated.
In December, the Energy Department announced that scientists produced more energy from fusion than the laser energy used to drive it for the first time ever, a historic breakthrough for the long-sought-after power source.
Fusion is the process by which two nuclei combine to form a single heavier nucleus, releasing a large amount of energy. The sun generates its energy by nuclear fusion of hydrogen nuclei into helium.
The ability to harness such power could theoretically lead to an endless source of clean energy due to the chain reactions involved.
"This collaboration represents a significant milestone for Helion and the fusion industry as a whole," Helion CEO David Kirtley said. "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."
In the 1960s, the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory theorized that fusion could be produced in a laboratory setting. That led to the next 60 years of laser research, optics, diagnostics, target fabrication, computer modeling and simulation, and experimental design.
The lab last year delivered 2.05 megajoules of energy to a target, resulting in 3.15 MJ of fusion energy output, demonstrating for the first time a most fundamental science basis for inertial fusion energy.
Outside the United States, the British government announced in October that it selected the West Burton A plant in Nottinghamshire, southeast of Leeds, as the site for its prototype fusion energy plant, which could be completed by 2040.
Italian energy company Eni, meanwhile, in March said it made preliminary arrangements with an offshoot of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology to accelerate the rollout of industrial-scale fusion.
Eni said a pilot facility for magnetic confinement fusion could be operational within the next two years.