Microsoft says commercial use of fusion-produced energy will be available within 5 years as part of new deal with Sam Altman-backed Helion

  • Microsoft and fusion energy company Helion announced a first-of-its-kind contract Wednesday.

  • Microsoft became the first company to commit to buying electricity produced entirely from fusion by 2028.

  • Fusion is the clean energy source of the stars in space, but experts have said it's likely still decades away on Earth.

Microsoft and Helion, a research company backed by OpenAI CEO Sam Altman, are teaming up to make fusion-produced energy available commercially much sooner than experts previously estimated.

The pair announced a first of its kind deal Wednesday that outlines a plan for Helion to provide at least 50 megawatts of power for Microsoft by 2028. The agreement between Microsoft and Helion appears to be the first-ever deal for a company to commit to buying fusion-powered electricity for commercial use.

Part of the deal includes unspecified financial penalties if Helion fails to provide the amount of energy specified to some of Microsoft's facilities in Washington, the Wall Street Journal reported.

"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 CEO David Kirtley said in a statement.

According to Brad Smith, Microsoft vice chair and president, the effort is intended to "advance the market to establish a new, efficient method for bringing more clean energy to the grid, faster."

"We are optimistic that fusion energy can be an important technology to help the world transition to clean energy," Smith said in a statement.

Fusion is the combination, or fusing together, of atoms to release nuclear energy, which is the source of energy of stars in space. Nuclear energy being produced at a significant level through fusion could massively reduce man-made climate change as it produces no greenhouse gasses or nuclear waste, according to Helion's FAQ page.

However, it is very difficult to recreate the energy source of the stars on Earth because of the extremely high temperatures and pressures required to fuse atoms at the scale necessary to create enough energy for things like commercial electricity.

A graphic explaining how Helion's fusion energy works
A graphic explaining how Helion's fusion energy technology works.Helion

In December, the Department of Energy announced what many saw as a breakthrough in the world of fusion energy, when the first nuclear fusion reaction was conducted that created more energy than it used.

Microsoft also released its annual environmental sustainability report Wednesday, and the company's chief sustainability officer Melanie Nakagawa said in a blog post that investing in companies like Helion is a way to "remove roadblocks" on the way to net-zero carbon emissions.

Billions have been invested in the clean energy industry in recent years, as venture capitalists and tech revolutionaries like Bill Gates and Sam Altman have poured money into dozens of startups.

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