What is a megawatt hour of electricity and what can you do with it?

A megawatt hour (MWh) is a measure of electricity flow. It is a similar unit of measure to the kilowatt hour we all see on our monthly power bills, just 1,000-times larger. For example, if your power bill shows 50 kilowatt hours of electricity used in a month, it’s exactly the same as 0.050 megawatt hours.

What can you do with a megawatt hour of electricity?

a megawatt hour can power two (2) 60w bulbs powered non-stop for a year a megawatt hour can power an avg American home for 1.2 monthsa megawatt hour can run 2 refrigerators for a year a megawatt hour can charge an electric car to drive 3,600 miles a megawatt hour can toast 89,000 slices of bread

In short, one megawatt hour can…

  • Power the average American home for 1.2 months
  • Drive an electric vehicle 3,600 miles
  • Power two 60-watt lightbulbs non-stop for a year
  • Smelt 137 pounds of aluminum
  • Toast 89,000 slices of bread
  • Run an average home pool pump for 5 months
  • Run two modern refrigerators for a year

What can you do with a kilowatt hour of electricity?

Here is the same list for those of you that prefer measuring things in kilowatt hours. For a single kWh of electricity, you can…

  • Power the average American home for 50 minutes
  • Drive an electric car for 3.6 miles
  • Power two 60-watt lightbulbs non-stop for 8.3 hours
  • Smelt 2.2 ounces of aluminum
  • Toast 89 slices of bread
  • Run an average home pool pump for 2.8 hours
  • Run a modern refrigerator for 20 hours

So, the next logical question is: how do you create a MWh of electricity? Check out our accompanying article, How much fossil fuel and renewables are needed to generate a megawatt hour of electricity?

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Technically, what is a megawatt hour?

Megawatt hours and megawatts are often confused but when doing analysis, their differences are crucial. A megawatt hour (or kilowatt hour) is a measure of energy, or total electricity delivered. By comparison, a megawatt (or kilowatt) is a measure of power, or the capacity of electrical potential. To use an imperfect but helpful metaphor, think of a megawatt as the size of a hose and a megawatt hour as the amount of water that flows from it over time.

Sources

You can see all the sources and the math behind them here. But here are some of the most interesting:

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