What is a Megawatt Hour?

EnergyCalendarMarch 22, 2019

Most of us have heard about kilowatts, but what about megawatts?

In this article, we’ll explain what a megawatt is and much more.

What Is A Megawatt?

A megawatt is simply defined as 1 million watts. Because there are 1,000 watts in a kilowatt, you could also think of a megawatt as 1,000 kilowatts. When dealing with watts in these quantities, especially when it comes to non-scientific matters, it’s much easier to talk about electricity in terms of megawatts than millions of watts.

How Many Kilowatt-hours Are In A Megawatt-hour?

Just like there are 1,000 kilowatts in 1 megawatt, there are also 1,000 kilowatt-hours in 1 megawatt-hour.

Your electric bill is measured in kilowatt-hours because megawatt-hours are so much larger in size. Although your electricity usage will rarely be described in megawatt-hours, utilities, for instance, use MWh’s all the time.

What Is The Abbreviation For Megawatt Hour?

The abbreviation for one megawatt hour is 1 MWh.

Sometimes you’ll see the initials capitalized differently from source to source. That being said, government sources always capitalize the first two letters and leave the last one in lowercase.

If you’re just talking about megawatts and not megawatt hours, just abbreviate it as MW.

What Is A Megawatt-hour?

So, what is a megawatt-hour? A megawatt-hour is just like a kilowatt-hour in the sense that it’s a measure of energy. Compare it to a gas tank. If your gas tank holds 15 gallons of gas, and your car can run on a gallon for 20 miles, then your gas tank is good for 300 miles. Similarly, you can calculate the range of an electric car based on its battery size and consumption rate. If an EV has a “tank” of 60 kilowatt-hours and consumes 1 kWh for every 4 miles of driving, your total range would be 240 miles.

A megawatt-hour is the same as one megawatt of power used continually for one hour. Because megawatts are so large, it’s easier to grasp a megawatt-hour if we break it down. 

1 megawatt (MW) = 1,000 kilowatts (kW), or the power used by the average microwave oven

1 megawatt-hour (MWh) = 1 MW for one hour or 1,000 kW for one hour. 

That’s the same as using 1 kW (or an average microwave) for 1,000 hours, which is about 40 days. So if you ran your microwave continuously for 40 days, that would be 1 megawatt-hour (MWh).

Is There Anything Bigger Than A Megawatt-hour?

Yes, there is. Aside from watts, kilowatts, and megawatts, there’s another unit of measurement known as the gigawatt or gigawatt-hour. A gigawatt is a massive amount of electrical energy. The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy created a list of some of the things that could either produce or consume 1 gigawatt of energy.

That gigawatt list includes:

  • 3.125 million photovoltaic solar panels
  • 431 utility-scale wind turbines
  • 100 million LED light bulbs
  • 1.3 million horses
  • 2,000 Corvette Z06s
  • 9,090 Nissan Leafs

And of course, let’s not forget Doc Brown’s DeLorean in Back To The Future which needs 1.21 gigawatts to travel through time.

To give you another idea of how big a gigawatt is, Vivint Solar installed 1 gigawatt of solar energy systems in just 7 years.

The point is, although there are units of electricity larger than a megawatt, they are so large that they won’t apply to the electrical usage of just one home. Most of the time, you won’t even be talking in terms of megawatts.

Save Kilowatts Today And Megawatts Tomorrow With Vivint Solar

At Vivint Solar, we provide our customers with new solar energy systems that provide their homes with clean electric energy. Not only do these solar energy systems benefit the environment, but they can save our customers money as well.

Month after month you can save money on your electric bill by using fewer kilowatt-hours from the electrical grid. Over time the money you have saved will grow resulting in a lot of savings down the road.

Reach out to one of our solar reps today and let us see if we can help you start saving money on your future utility bills.

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