Helion secures $2.2B to commercialize fusion energy

Helion Energy, a sustainable energy firm dedicated to ushering in a new age of abundant, zero-carbon electricity from fusion, announced today that its $0.5 billion Series E funding round has closed, with an additional $1.7 billion in pledges attached to specified objectives. Sam Altman, CEO of OpenAI and former president of Y Combinator, led the financing. Existing investors included Facebook co-founder Dustin Moskovitz, Peter Thiel’s Mithril Capital, and Capricorn Investment Group, a well-known sustainable tech investor. 

Additional financing pledges of $1.7 billion are contingent on Helion meeting key performance objectives. Since 2015, round-leader Altman has become a shareholder and chairperson of the firm.

Since the first controlled thermonuclear fusion reaction was achieved 60 years ago, fusion energy has been a blazing dream for clean energy enthusiasts. The technique promises all of the advantages of today’s nuclear fission generators, but at a fraction of the danger, with significantly less radioactivity while in operation and very little radioactive waste. 

There is a catch: it has proven difficult to induce the fusion process to create more energy than it consumes in order to keep the reaction under control so far. Helion has shifted its attention away from fusion as a research experiment and toward a more pressing question: can their technology generate power on a commercial and industrial scale?

“In the fusion space, some initiatives talk about heat, energy, and other things. Helion is primarily concerned with the production of energy. Is it possible to get it out quickly and at a minimal cost? “Can we bring it to industrial-scale power?” David Kirtley, co-founder, and CEO of Helion, wonders. 

“We’re constructing systems the size of a shipping container that can produce industrial-scale power — on the order of 50 megawatts of electricity,” says the researcher.

Helion said in June that it has become the first private fusion business to heat fusion plasma to 100 million degrees Celsius, marking a significant step on the road to commercial fusion energy. 

Soon after, the firm stated that it had broken ground on a plant to begin the process of preparing for the production of its seventh-generation fusion generator, dubbed “Polaris,” by the corporation.

When the firm announced it would be able to have net power generation of fusion up and running in three years, TechCrunch was astonished to discover the company’s $1.5 million financing in 2014. Helion looks to have met a few obstacles during the last seven years, but the business has also discovered its focus. “We ended up swinging in direction a little bit, focusing less overall energy objectives and more especially on electricity.” 

We had to demonstrate some of the technology related to power and electricity extraction. Kirtley remembers, “We also needed certain finance things to happen to get us all the way to those technical goals.” “Unfortunately, it took a little longer than anticipated.” As part of the financing round, Sam Altman moves up from chairperson of the board to the executive chairperson of Helion, with increased responsibilities that include influence on the company’s commercial strategy.