Fossil fuels are making way for nuclear fusion at a recently retired coal-fired power plant in the US where a Bill Gates-backed developer will build a machine aimed at bringing the limitless clean power of the stars to Earth.

US developer Type One Energy announced today (Wednesday) that it has reached a deal to use the Bull Run Fossil Plant in the state of Tennessee to build its first experimental nuclear fusion machine, ‘Infinity One’.

Type One signed a memorandum of understanding last year for the project with the Tennessee Valley Authority and the US Department of Energy’s Oak Ridge National Laboratory.

The project will cost $223m, according to a report in Axios.

Infinity One will allow Type One – a recipient of funding from Breakthrough Energy Ventures, the innovation fund of Microsoft founder Bill Gates – to test design features of its prototype stellarator.

Stellarators use magnetic fields to hold plasma in the shape of a doughnut, called a torus. They are said to be harder to manufacture but easier to use than their better-known cousin, the tokamak, which has long dominated the sector.

Fusion uses the same process that generates light and heat from stars, fusing hydrogen and other light elements to release huge amounts of power.

Its promise of limitless clean energy has seen it labelled a “holy grail” technology in the race to net zero.

This is a “watershed moment” in the commercialisation of fusion, said Type One CEO Christofer Mowry, claiming that this is the “first time” that leaders in the technology, utility and national laboratory sectors had linked up on an “actual deployment project.”

“Project Infinity will create the world’s most advanced stellarator, offering an excellent platform for a potential long-term fusion research facility,” he added.

Construction of Infinity One will begin next year after necessary reviews, permits and licenses have been obtained.

The project will also see Wisconsin-based Type One shift its headquarters to Tennessee.

Mowry recently told Recharge that he believes renewables can only take the world so far in its race to net zero and it is fusion that can step in to finish the energy transition.