The President’s Page in the Feb. 9 issue notes the Princeton Plasma Physics Lab’s 60-year attempt to develop a nuclear-fusion energy source. Fusion reactions are convincingly thought to be the origin of the sun’s energy production that underlies solar radiation. Ironically, the conversion of this fusion-generated radiation to useful electrical energy is actually being accomplished elsewhere on the Forrestal Campus, by the 370-kilowatt solar panel installation on the roof of the ReCAP building. Fusion-energy conversion also is being accomplished on the main campus, on the roof of the Frick Chemistry Laboratory. Recently, the University announced a project to generate up to 5.3 megawatts from a solar-collector array on its land southeast of the D&R Canal.
After six decades of fusion-related R&D and billions of dollars expended, the only way that PPPL ever will demonstrate the practical conversion of fusion energy to electricity is by following the three precedents on the various University campuses, namely by installing solar energy panels on the flat roofs of PPPL buildings and on carport structures over the parking lots.
That installation could be accomplished with a small fraction of PPPL’s extravagant annual budget.