A megawatt is a unit used for one million watts; it is used for measuring power. A megawatt-hour (Mwh) is the same as 1,000 Kilowatt-hours (Kwh). A single megawatt is equal to the power of 10 automobile engines. One (Kwh) is 1,000 kilowatts of power used in an hour. In 1 Megawatt, there are 1,000 Kilowatts and 1 million Watts. So before fully understanding how much electricity is in a megawatt, it is good to understand this concept of conversion between these units to measure energy:
1,000 watts = 1 Kilowatt
1,000 Kilowatts = 1 Megawatt
1,000 Megawatts = 1 Gigawatt
So now that you can see how many watts and kilowatts are in a megawatt, it would be good to explain how the ‘wattage’ system works. You may have noticed that microwaves and other appliances work more efficiently in the last 20 years or so than they have in the past. That is because they have more wattage powering them.
For instance, most microwaves these days work by using 1,000 watts per second. In the past, this was a lot lower, which means that microwaves produced today can heat food within a less amount of time.
Think of it this way: if you are trying to reheat last night’s lasagna, it will take 1/4 less time using a 1,000-watt microwave compared to a 750-watt microwave. For every second, the microwave is using 25% more energy, thus decreasing the amount of time needed to get the desired temperature.
Now that we understand the basics of what a watt is, we can detail what a megawatt is. While both watts and megawatts are units of measurement referring to electricity, the amount of energy in 1 watt is vastly less than in 1 Megawatt.
To derail for a minute, anyone who at least has a beginner’s understanding of computers will already be familiar with this concept of measuring. As relates to computer files, a computer file that is 1 kilobyte has 1,000 bytes in it; (just like how there are 1,000 watts in a Kilowatt). And just like the table above, there are 1,000 kilobytes in a megabyte.
Getting back to units of measurement for energy usage, when we are talking about 1 megawatt, we are only utilizing a type of measurement for either used or stored energy. Any “wattage” is just referring to how much energy has been used. Because a Megawatt is fairly large, you may notice the bills you receive from your electric company; the usage section will be in kilowatts.
To put things into perspective, the modern American home will use around 7,200 Kilowatt hours of electricity per year. That is far less than 1 MW per month, and for a home to use 1 MW per month, they would have to have all the lights on, with all appliances continuously operating for a very long period.
Another good way to put things into perspective is to understand that 1 MW of power is enough to power 1,000 homes at a time. However, that number can fluctuate and change depending on the time of year, demands of power, and region.
What Does MWh Mean? The Definition
Although folks working in corporate America love their acronyms, the only one that you will want to take away from this article is MWh (Megawatt-hour). It is far easier to say or read MWh versus Mega-watt hour, especially if you are reading a report or speaking to a colleague about the subject for a long period. A Megawatt-hour, or MWH, is one million watts of electricity used for 1 hour. Most of the time, Megawatt-hours will be shortened to “MWh,”; but with some sources, the capitalization can change. That said, government sources will always capitalize the first two letters and leave the last on in lowercase. Because of this, it is the most common way to abbreviate Megawatt Hours is MWh. Additionally, if you refer to Megawatts and not Megawatt-hours, you will abbreviate it to “MW.”
MWH ultimately refers to an hour of electricity equal to this amount. To understand the definition of a megawatt-hour, it is important first to understand that the term “megawatt” refers to a unit of measurement of electricity. Still, the term “Megawatt-hour” measures a megawatt and adds the element of time to the equation, even though no math will be involved on your part here. The term “Megawatt hour” refers to the amount of electricity used in an hour and is measured in megawatts.
Megawatt to Kilowatt Hours
Before delving into how Megawatts are related to Kilowatt-hours, it is important to realize that these are, in fact, two different measurements. As we went over in the sections above, a Megawatt is a unit of power that is instant; whereas a Kilowatt-hour (KWh) is a unit of measurement of electricity taken over time.
Although these measurements are related in the sense that they are both used to measure electricity, they are different. One easy way to remember this is by considering that KWh is a unit of energy, referring to how many Kilowatts of energy is used in an hour. MW is a unit of energy per unit time. If you are looking to convert KWh to MW, it can get confusing because you are assuming average or consistent energy consumption over time. The formula used to do this conversion is this:
1 MW 1 H=1,000 KWh
1,000 kWh/year = 114.077116 W
Now, if we are talking about how many Kilowatt-hours are in a Megawatt hour, that is by far easier to explain and calculate. Like there are 1,000 Kilowatts in a Megawatt, there are 1,000 Kilowatt-hours in 1 Megawatt-hour. Your electric bill is measured in Kilowatt-hours, simply because Megawatt-hours are so much larger.
How Much is a Megawatt?
Watts,” in general, is the unit of measurement used to determine how much energy is being used or stored in a power plant. There are one million watts and 1,000 kilowatts; that is a lot of watts in one Megawatt when you think about it! To go even further, there are 1,000 Megawatts in a Gigawatt. On your energy bill, you will be able to see the breakdown of how many Watts were used for your billing cycle. Generally speaking, (and this can change from state to state, depending on how much the cost of electricity is for that region), 1 Kilowatt-hour costs an average of $0.15, while a Megawatt-hour is on average $150. Keep in mind that 1,000 Kilowatt-hours equals 1 Megawatt-hour.
The average amount of energy used in the average American home each year is roughly 10.76 MWh. (That, of course, can increase depending on the size of the home and how many people are living there). Even though advances in renewable power such as solar and wind, with more energy-efficient systems, have reduced the amount of energy used per square foot, homes have increased in size, especially in the last 20 years.
That means that even though we have found ways to be more energy efficient by using energy star appliances and smart home technology, we still are using roughly the same amount of energy due to the increase in square feet that we reside in. That said, we generally measure the energy used in residential areas by Kilowatt-hours.
Considering how much MWh the average American home uses (10.76 per year) and the fact that 1 MWh is roughly $137 using traditional means of taking energy from the grid, American homes can pay a lot yearly to keep their homes powered with electricity.
So, let’s do the math for a minute. If one home uses 10.76 MWh per year, and 1 MWh costs around $137, the average American home can expect to pay roughly $1,500 per year to power their homes. And that is not even taking into account the states and regions that have higher electricity costs. In these areas, 1 MWh can cost around $200, which would bring the annual cost to power a home in these states closer to $2200 yearly.
What is a Megawatt Hour
Like a Kilowatt-hour, a Megawatt-hour or MWh is a unit of energy measurement. The easiest way to think about it is by comparing it to a gas tank. For example, if your car can hold 15 gallons of gas and consumes fuel at a rate of 20 miles per gallon, you can go for 300 miles on a gas tank.
So getting back on course to what a Megawatt-hour is, the easiest way to imprint this knowledge to your brain is by remembering that 1 MWh is the same as one MW of power used consistently for one hour. Because a megawatt measurement is so large (considering it has 1 million watts), it is easier to understand a Megawatt-hour if it is broken down.
As we know, 1 Megawatt equals 1,000 Kilowatts. Using a microwave as an example, most modern microwaves run on a 1,000 KW power usage system. And as discussed prior, we also know that 1 MWh is equal to 1 MW used over 1 hour. This can be the same as using an average microwave, which runs at 1 KW for 1,000 hours, roughly 40 days. So that means that if you use your microwave constantly for 40 days (which you should never do), that would equal 1 Megawatt-hour.
Going even further, another unit of measurement is greater than Megawatts and Megawatt-hours; that would be Gigawatts or Gigawatt-hours. Generally, you will never come across this unit of measurement due to how massive it is as it relates to energy; 1 GW is equivalent to 1,000 MW.