Fusion in the Energy System 2050+

The energy transition challenge / energy system integration as future theme / role of fusion

March 16, 2017
Sketch of a tokamak demonstration power plant. From the interior to the exterior: magnet coil for induction of the plasma current (brown), main field coils (lilac), plasma vessel (green), blanket (blue), divertor (magenta), auxiliary coils (brown), cryostat (grey), shielding (grey).

In order to master the energy transition, a diversity of energy sources need to be matched up in the energy system of the future – decentral and central, weather-dependent and continuously operable units. The technological and economic interactions of all system components, – generator, storage, load and transport facilities – and their intelligent networking are being tackled by the Energy System Integration project, which the Helmholtz Association is funding with five million euros in the next three years in the context of their Initiative and Networking Fund. The partners involved, including Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics (IPP) at Garching und Greifswald, are making further contributions. The aim of the research project is to model the architecture for an environmentally compatible, efficient and stable energy system of the future.

Expected as new primary energy source in the second half of the century are fusion power plants, environmentally and climatically friendly facilities supplying about one gigawatt of electric power. The contribution of IPP will therefore be to work out the physical and technical properties of these devices – of either the tokamak or stellarator type.

Sketch of a stellarator demonstration power plant. From the interior to the exterior: support ring (grey), magnet coils (blue), plasma vessel with ports (grey), blanket (green), plasma (red). Not shown are the divertor and the cryostat, which encloses the core of the device.

If fusion power plants are made available after 2050, they could take the place of today’s coal-fired power plants. The fusion power to be fed into the power grid would be plannable; fusion power plants could therefore contribute to ensuring grid stability. Generation of process heat of high temperature would also be conceivable, e.g. for synthesis of fuels. System studies are to analyse all of this more closely. They should provide the basis for incorporating fusion in the models of the fusion energy system and optimise it accordingly.

The Energy System Integration research project involves a total of seven Helmholtz facilities: Helmholtz Centre for Materials and Energy, Berlin, Research Centre Jülich, German Aerospace Centre, Helmholtz Centre Dresden-Rossendorf, German Research Centre for Geosciences, and Max Planck Institute for Plasma Physics, as associate of the Helmholtz Association. The project is headed by Karlsruhe Institute of Technology.

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