Monday, December 6, 2021

Everett Startup Raises $ 500 Million for Zero Carbon Fusion Power Generator

Helion Energy, a clean energy company seeking to commercialize “fusion energy” technology that it says will be able to generate electricity with zero carbon emissions, has raised $ 500 million in a private fundraising round.

The funding, which was announced Friday, will go towards building a new prototype fusion generator in Everett, where the company is based, and manufacturing many of the expensive components needed to run the generator.

“[T]“The scale of this funding and the vote of confidence we’ve received from a lot of smart people … allows us to focus and focus to get the power as soon as possible,” said David Curtley, CEO of Helion.

The funding was led by Sam Altman, the former president of Silicon Valley’s best-known accelerator, Y Combinator. Altman is the executive chairman of Helion. In an interview, Altman said it was the biggest investment he has ever made.

Dustin Moskowitz, co-founder of Facebook (now Meta), and Mithril Capital, founded by billionaire Peter Thiel, also co-funded.

“My general philosophy of investing in hard tech is to start with a small investment,” Altman said. “But then when the technology is working and there is a plan … to make it work better at scale, then you will invest a lot of money.”

Helion’s latest funding in 2020 raised $ 40 million. In June, Helion said it was the first private company to create the extremely high temperatures in a chamber – over 100 million degrees Celsius – required for fusion.

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Kirtley said that with this new infusion of money, the company will have enough to build the first fusion generator by 2024, which generates more electricity than it consumes. If it succeeds in achieving this goal, the company will have the opportunity to raise an additional $ 1.7 billion from investors to begin building fusion generators for commercial use.

Fusion energy is created when two atoms fuse together at temperatures above 100 million degrees Celsius, releasing energy that can then be converted into electricity. Fusion should not be confused with “fission”, which splits atoms and produces energy using a nuclear reactor. Unlike fission, nuclear fusion does not generate any long-lived and dangerous radioactive by-products, the company said.

At the July opening ceremony for the site where the fusion generator will be built, Helion also said it would build capacity to produce a new form of helium needed for fusion. At the ceremony, Kirtley said that the commercial production of this specialized helium, dubbed helium-3, had never been done on Earth before. (Helium-3 is extremely rare on Earth, and more on the Moon.)

Helion isn’t the only Washington-based fusion company. Zap Energy and CTFusion are also actively working with fusion technology emerging from research at the University of Washington.

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