Fusion power is often said to harness the power of the sun, so why are we just trying to make electricity with it?
That’s essentially what the co-founders at Realta Fusion were thinking when they formed the company to transform an experimental reactor design into a power source that wouldn’t just provide electricity, but also heat. Industrial heat alone represents nearly 10% of carbon pollution in the U.S., according to the Department of Energy.
Fusion, unlike some other decarbonized power sources, works best when it’s run 24-7, a set that jibes with many users of industrial-strength heat like chemical refining or metal smelting. “They’re not going to be saying, ‘Yeah, sure, shut our plant down whenever we don’t have power,’” Realta co-founder and CEO Kieran Furlong told TechCrunch+.
While there aren’t many solutions yet, those same industries are under pressure from investors and customers to remove carbon from their operations. While commercial fusion power is probably a decade away at best, its timeline isn’t too different from other candidates like hydrogen that are looking to replace fossil fuels as sources of industrial heat.
Realta is looking to ignite the plasma in its industrial-scale demo plant in the early 2030s, but to get there, it first has to design a smaller prototype plant that builds on work done at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. To realize those plans, the startup has raised a $9 million seed round led by Khosla Ventures alongside a $3 million grant from the Department of Energy’s ARPA-E program, both of which were announced Wednesday.