- For the first time in history, unlimited, cheap and clean energy has been generated through nuclear fusion. This unprecedented milestone opens the door to endless clean energy possibilities. So much so that one glass of water would produce energy for a family of four for 40 years.
- This finding is a historic milestone that opens a promising path, but while this new energy possibility is still being developed, the world is still working on other renewable energy sources for the imminent future: electrification, hydrogen, wind power or photovoltaics.
Nuclear fusion: a historic milestone
For the first time in history, it has been possible to replicate in a laboratory what happens naturally inside a star: nuclear fusion. This experiment, which is still a long way from commercial implementation, marks a total energy revolution, which would mean abandoning the use of fossil fuels and making way for a future of cheap, emission-free energy.
In technical terms, it involves a nuclear reaction at extremely high temperatures between the atoms contained in water, giving rise to a more thoughtful nucleus and releasing a large amount of energy. Its complexity makes it unfeasible as a commercial source in the short term, as there are only three machines capable of providing enough energy to develop this process, but it undoubtedly marks a first step towards a historic transformation.
The effects of the environmental crisis are becoming increasingly evident, but fusion energy is at best decades away. To have a significant impact on the electricity market, at least 500 plants would need to be in operation. At present, there are 440 nuclear fission reactors in operation in the world producing around 10% of total electricity, highlighting the difficulty of seeing short-term effects on energy.
Current alternatives for clean and cheap energy
Meanwhile, other types of energy such as green hydrogen continue to make strong progress in offering alternatives to fossil fuels for industries. One example of its application is the aeronautical company Airbus, which is developing a hydrogen-powered fuel cell engine. A solution that would bring it closer to the goal it has set for the next decade: to manufacture zero-emission aircraft.
On the other hand, the first steps are also being taken in the construction of hydropower plants, with large internal hydro-product corridors linking Spain, Portugal and France, to create a backbone of infrastructures for the whole of Europe.
Increasingly, offshore parks are being built to enable the energy transition to be tackled in a real way. All countries are accelerating in this call for clean energy. Australia, the latest addition, has developed a farm that has the potential to house 10 gigawatts of wind power capacity, the equivalent of about five coal-fired plants.
In Spain, and specifically the Canary Islands, they are also working on the installation of more than 200 MW of floating offshore wind power. Galicia is not far behind either, and is looking to place 34 wind turbines and 510 MW of power 30 kilometres from Vigo, supplying energy to more than half of the city’s population.
As for photovoltaic energy, it aims to take a step forward and position itself as a leader in terms of renewable energy. Between 2023 and 2026, almost 29.3 gigawatts (GW) of photovoltaics will be installed in Spain, a capacity equivalent to the electricity supply of two thirds of the country’s households. It is the second country in Europe to add the most solar capacity to the grid over the next five years, behind only Germany.
According to the latest SolarPower Europe report, by 2026 Spain will have a total capacity of around 48.3 GW. This represents an increase of 154% compared to 2021, which will make Spain the eighth country with the largest installed capacity in the world. China stands out in this group, with the incorporation of 505.8 GW of photovoltaic power, followed by the United States (188.6 GW) and India (116.4 GW).
With this panorama, we are undoubtedly facing an energy revolution that will transform our entire production system. In this transition, all industries will have to face accelerated structural changes to respond to this new global scenario marked by green and sustainable energy, which is more necessary and urgent than ever.