DEVENS — The bustling business community at the former Fort Devens army base continues to grow with a major addition downtown — a company that is working to harness the power that fuels the sun.
Commonwealth Fusion Systems announced Wednesday that it will be developing a 47-acre site in Devens over the next four years. The site is meant to further the company’s goal of developing fusion power as a reliable source of energy instead of traditional energy methods that continue to harm the planet.
Kristen Cullen, CFS’s head of public affairs, said the site will feature two buildings: a 165,000-square-foot manufacturing facility that will also serve as the company’s corporate offices and a 150,000-square-foot research facility. The research facility will house SPARC, a compact fusion device meant to demonstrate how fusion power can be developed into an energy source. Cullen said that while the SPARC has the base of a typical tokamak — a type of magnetic confinement device that is used all over the world to develop fusion power — CFS’s device features new magnet technology that’s never been used on a tokamak before.
“Fusion has been researched all over the world, but no one has proven that fusion can be a power source,” she added. “We’re now able to take machines generating fusion and make them smaller and faster to demonstrate fusion. This is a big moment for the world.”
Created from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Plasma Science and Fusion Center, CFS is currently located in Cambridge with a lot of its work done at MIT. Cullen said the company has been searching for a site for the SPARC for about two years and found Devens, which is owned by MassDevelopment, to be preferable due to its proximity to MIT. She added CFS is planning to close on the site located on Hospital Road across the street from New England Studios by mid-March.
“SPARC is just a demonstration, not a power plant,” Cullen said. “We will then move on to find other sites for a fusion power plant. We see the manufacturing facility as where we’ll be manufacturing components for future fusion power plants all over the world. Our research facility is meant to attract researchers all over the world.”
The total price tag on the site is about $300 million, with construction set to start in April. Cullen said the manufacturing facility is set to be completed by late 2022, while the research facility is expected to be done by 2025. King Street Properties of Boston is set to develop and own the manufacturing facility, leasing it to CFS once completed.
“There is no question that this is amazing for Devens and the greater Nashoba Valley Region,” Melissa Fetterhoff, president and CEO of the Nashoba Valley Chamber of Commerce, said. “Devens has become a magnet for larger manufacturers & distributors because of all the Devens team can offer as a place to grow. Our community is rich with strong values and people that work together and we’re looking forward to CFS being a part of that.”
This is the second major development to start in Devens in a span of three months. It’s also the second one to involve King Street Properties, which is developing a 45-acre bio-manufacturing campus worth $500 million meant for life science companies to develop large-molecule drugs for more complex medical processes. The campus is expected to be completed by 2027.
“Historically we have had many technologies that change the world start in Massachusetts, and when Commonwealth Fusion Systems does it by bringing fusion energy technology to life we will be able to say they did it at their first-of-its-kind campus in Devens,” MassDevelopment President and CEO Dan Rivera said in a release. “The former U.S. Army base today boasts an ecosystem of cutting-edge technology and manufacturing companies thanks to its proximity to major research and education hubs, first-rate utility infrastructure, and commitment to fostering innovation. As the Commonwealth’s finance and economic development agency tasked with redeveloping Devens, MassDevelopment is thrilled to welcome Commonwealth Fusion Systems to the community.”