Monday, January 12, 2009

Really, what's a gigawatt?

Today's post comes from CleanTechnica.

Well, it started there anyway.

The article in question made me realize I have no idea what a Gigawatt really is, other than one billion watts -- useful information with other recent news like China's plans and the other article today.

Working with past solid proof that most of my ideas are already "out there", I went searching for answers. Turns out the numbers really depend on who you ask, since a gigawatt could power 750,000 to 400,000 homes depending on who you ask.

Citing his own fallibility, I think Dick Plano on the U.S. Department of Energy BBS had the best answer:

I can give you some numbers from my experience. There are two of us (retired) with an outdoor hot tub, full-house air conditioning, 4 TV's, 2 computers, gas heat. We are probably fairly typical.

Our electrical bill says we use an average of 20 kW with a maximum of 31 kW (in December). So 1 kW would meet our average needs and perhaps 2 kW would meet our maximum loads. 1 kW per person is generally considered adequate.

320 gigaWatts = 320,000,000,000 W = 3.2 x 10E11 W = 3.2 x 10E8 kW would therefore power 1.6 x 10E8 homes. With two people per home, this amounts to 320 million people, somewhat more than the population of the United States.

Of course, in our society a large amount of electricity is used by public needs and by industry, so 320 GW would be inadequate for the country as a whole.

So there ya go!

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