Fusion Isn’t There

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We’re not anywhere near that close. The reports of fusion putting out more power than it draws in is a selective of the facts. As Wired explains:

…researchers said they got as much energy out as their laser fired at the experiment—a massive, long-awaited achievement. But the problem is that the energy in those lasers represents a tiny fraction of the total power involved in firing up the lasers. By that measure, NIF is getting way less than it’s putting in. “That type of breakeven is way, way, way, way down the road,” Cappelli says. “That’s decades down the road. Maybe even a half-century down the road.”

Even when real break even is accomplished you need to remember that energy generated isn’t the same thing as energy to the grid. Essentially, you still need to convert the energy to steam, to power a turbine to generate electricity. A process that is something like 30% efficient. In other words, the energy generated must be 3x what is drawn in from the grid to be net zero in terms of electricity from the grid.

But that isn’t all: the calculation for energy output vs. energy input considers the amount of energy the laser used in the process delivers, but it takes more energy to create the laser beam than what it delivers.

Fusion might be promising, but it is promising decades from now. The move to carbon-free energy sources needs to start with technologies we can implement today, such as wind, solar and hydroelectic.



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