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Madison companies earn federal awards for fusion power

By: Ethan Duran//June 1, 2023//

Madison companies earn federal awards for fusion power

By: Ethan Duran//June 1, 2023//

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Realta Fusion Inc.’s experiment space inside the University of Wisconsin – Madison. The company was one of two Madison-area firms selected to get federal money to make fusion power more attainable. The U.S. Department of Energy gave $46 million to eight companies across seven states as part of a national incentive to create a “pilot-scale demonstration of fusion” within the next decade. (Photo courtesy of Realta Fusion.)

Two Madison companies have received funding from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) for research and design for fusion power plants. The agency announced on Wednesday $46 million for eight companies across seven states as part of a national incentive to create a pilot-scale demonstration of fusion within the next 10 years.

Madison-based Realta Fusion Inc. and Type One Energy Group were chosen to receive funding from the Milestone-Based Fusion Development Program, DOE officials said. The awardees will push for the design of a fusion pilot plant to make fusion power more technically and commercially viable, according to the DOE website.

The department awarded $3 million, and a seed financing round allotted $9 million in venture capital to Realta, said Kieran Furlong, company co-founder and CEO, in a statement. The award was a vote of conference from DOE in the company’s compact magnetic mirror fusion technology, he added.

“We’re delighted to have been one of the fusion start-ups selected by the DOE in a very competitive process. The funding is huge, but the vote of confidence from DOE in our compact magnetic mirror fusion technology is just as important,” Furlong added.

The partnership between the federal government and companies could push fusion power, which creates the power of the sun on Earth, closer toward being a possible source for the energy grid, Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said in a statement.

“We have generated energy by drawing power from the sun above us. Fusion offers the potential to create the power of the sun right here on Earth. The Biden-Harris Administration is committed to partnering with innovative researchers and companies across the country to take fusion energy past the lab and toward the grid,” Granholm added.

The funding is a “major step” for the White House’s summit goals on developing commercial fusion energy, DOE officials said. The agency put applicants through a rigorous merit-review process that evaluated scientific, technical, commercial, business and financial viability. Reviewers also looked at companies’ plans to support DOE efforts in advancing the Justice40 initiative, which aims for 40% of benefits of climate change and energy investments connect to disadvantaged communities, officials added.

The total $46 million is for the first 18 months, with funds coming from Fiscal Years 2022 and 2023, DOE officials said. Projects can last up to five years and funding beyond that depends on how much congress appropriates and how teams progress towards the program’s milestones, officials added.

According to Realta, fusion energy will be “critical” in achieving global net zero greenhouse gas emission targets. Over 80% of global energy is still supplied by fossil fuels and industry is still difficult to decarbonize, company officials said. Many of the world’s critical manufacturing processes need firm, always-on sources of high temperature heat, company officials added.

Researchers at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in December achieved fusion ignition for the first time and created more energy from fusion than the energy put into the fuel target, DOE officials said.


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