Economics of Fusion Energy Production
Economics is the essential basis for the 100 GW output number.
The large cost of the accelerator driver is most economical when the system is used at its capacity. One could use the accelerator to drive a single generation unit associated with one chamber, but then its cost would have to be recovered from a single 1GW generator. In theory, a 1GW facility could be operated but then the cost of power would have to be more than $0.50 per kWh. As more generation units are brought on-line that per kWh hour cost rapidly declines and becomes comparable to coal or natural gas when three or four chambers are functioning each with three generation units. If all 10 chambers are in operation (10 chambers is thought to be the practical limit for one driver) then the per unit kWh cost declines to less than the cost of any other electricity provider – including hydroelectric power – all without the discharge of any CO2 or the generation of high level radioactive waste. This is shown graphically in the figure below where model cost per kWh is plotted against system GW (electric) output. This shows that the 100GW "round number" thermal system captures the large economies of scale accruing from driving multiple chambers with one accelerator driver.
Multiple other advantages accrue from the size and multiplicity of chambers, such as speed of bringing large quantities of clean energy on line, the "resilience" of the energy source as a result of a single chamber representing only a fraction of the system output, and the associated freedom to add or remove operating chambers on the power stream without interruption of other operating chambers. Thus service and maintenance can be provided without upsetting the individual customer.
A simple comparison of a fusion energy system with the current means of generating the energy that society needs shows that a fusion system, though large by past standards, is more cost effective than the development of additional energy from current sources. The figure below compares the cost of development of a 500,000 barrels a day oil field (a transportation fuel source) and a set of large power plants (an electricity source) with a fusion power energy source that delivers both a liquid fuel stream and electricity at the same output level.
A quick look at the bottom lines of this comparison shows that fusion is indeed much more cost effective for it costs less to build, delivers product at a lower average cost, has a lower annual maintenance cost, and has substantially less environmental cost than the current means of delivering the equivalent amount of energy by conventional means. Moreover, a fusion based system has a long operational life and does not suffer from the depletion of resources as is characteristic of fossil fuel energy sources such as oil and gas or coal.
Comparison of the economics of current and SPS energy systems
The energy production business is generally as stable as they come, and generally
world population is increasing and
everyone wants to increase their standard of living. An increased standard of living requires more base-load energy. The figure at right shows the relationship of standard of living to the use of energy in the economy. If all peoples of the world were to be brought to the standard of living of the United States, it would require more than a doubling of the energy supply. No source, other than fusion, is capable of meeting this demand.
Standard of living depends upon energy availability.
Each pulse results in the release of the energy equivalent to that released in the burning of 1.6 barrels of oil. In a fully developed system, there is an pulse every 1/10 of a second, in one of the 10 reaction chambers. This results in the production of the energy equivalent of 16 barrels of oil per second or 1.4 million barrels of oil equivalent per day.
Clearly, the production of this much energy means that the system is large and will require a substantial investment. But if the size is scaled correctly, it is very profitable and it is this profit that is the end reward for the investors in this project.
What are these rewards? For a fully developed fusion energy complex (10 reaction chambers), the income stream is projected to be $10 to $20 billion per year if one uses the cost of the energy in coal as the basis for the pricing of the delivered energy. It is slightly more ($12 to $25 billion) if one equates the energy produced to that in $50 per barrel oil. Direct operating and maintenance costs are likely to be in the range of $2 to $5 billion per year.
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