StarPower Energy Complex

StarPower Energy Complex

Why so big?   Why a 100 Gigawatts?  

100GW is a prominent feature of FPC's plan, so stating and restating the motivations for this size is always useful. Large output does not result from an arbitrary love of bigness. It does, however, involves the requirements for ignition for you must have a large accelerator to get enough energy, and it involves the requirements for neutron protection. These are the key starting points for our consideration of size. 

Neutrons are a problem for almost all fusion enterprises.  They are an inevitable partner to the production of energy from the Hydrogen Deuterium/Tritium reaction.  The neutrons initially carry most of the released energy.  Thus it is critical that they be put to work rather than allowed to cause damage.  To harness them, one must place the reaction inside a substantial chunk of lithium that we call a sabot.  In the case of the FPC construct, the lithium is in the form of a sphere of lithium about 60 cm (23 inches) in diameter that surrounds the fuel pellet.  Now comes economics.  A small amount of energy release requires the same thickness of lithium as a large energy release for it is the thickness of lithium that is necessary to absorb the released neutron that is the critical parameter not the amount of energy released.  But sabots and fuel pellets cost money to make, so it is necessary to have a large enough energy release to pay this cost and to return a decent profit to the investor that put up the billions of dollars to construct the system.

The energy to get the reaction to take place is a challenge in itself.  Other systems have spent 5 decade trying to invent a new way to collect and focus enough energy.  FPC has chosen to just accept  a known technology, RF accelerators, to supply the necessary energy to ignite the fusion reaction.  This technology was available 3 decades ago but was ignored because it was big.  Big is necessary to get the large amounts of energy delivered in less than a blink of an eye to the fuel pellet.  Big accelerators cost money, say 20 billion dollars more or less.  Thus economics comes into play once again for return on this investment means you must have a large output or charge an exorbitant amount for the output energy.  Market economics says that a wholesale price of something between 5 and 10 cents per kWh is all the customer will bear so the minimum size is determined by the market for energy and thus the return on investment.  Thus, Economics is the essential basis for determining minimum size.  Maximum size simply says the energy can cost less if one uses the accelerator, half the cost of the system, to the greatest extent possible.  Size of the plant has no influence over safety for should there be a malfunction in any one of the chambers, that chamber shuts down automatically with no dangerous releases or potentials for hazard.

Heavy ion drivers are big and expensive. People in the thought-box set by the current practice of electricity providers would regard the cost of a heavy ion driver as too expensive because they picture energy as coming in 1 GW packets (a conventional large gas turbine/steam power plant or a standard nuclear power plant).  This view continues to prevail so FPC has considered other means of using fusion energy to make liquid fuels and metals on site thus effectively using he heat energy without making and marketing electricity in packets larger than 1GW per generation unit. But we will for reasons of economic necessity (see below) have multiple generation unit at a single site.  FPC is confident that  the market for its efficiently produced green electricity will grow and that within a few years of commencement of operations it will be the primary product sold to generate electricity the world over.  Fortunately, a single driver can run multiple chambers each with multiple generation units so expansion will be possible as the opportunities for increased usage emerge.

People in the fossil fuels business have a different experience with size than does the electricity industry.  Oil people no doubt wish all their fields could be "super giants". The ability of HIF drivers to drive multiple chambers at little additional incremental cost means that utility executives have the opportunity of oil industry executives namely having 'super giant' generation facilities that can meet the needs of growing markets at little additional cost. 

Now let us return to Economics.  Economics is the essential basis for the 100GWe output number. The large driver is most economically utilized when it is used at its capacity.  One could use it to drive one generation unit associated with one chamber, but then its cost would have to be recovered from only one 1GW generator.  In theory, a 1GW facility could be operated but then the cost of power would have to be almost $1 per kWh.  As more generation units are brought on line that per kWh hour cost declines and becomes comparable to coal or natural gas when two or three chambers are functioning each with 3 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 output.  This shows that the 100GW  "round number" 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.