Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy

How Much Power is 1 Gigawatt?

August 9, 2018

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Graphic of the Back to the Future car
Graphic by Sarah Harman |U.S. Department of Energy

A date most movie buffs know by heart, October 21, 2015, is the day Marty McFly and Doc Brown travel to the future in Stephen Spielberg's 1989 classic "Back to the Future: Part II."

Although you may not have remembered the date, you've probably heard of Doc's DeLorean, which takes 1.21 gigawatts (GW) of power to travel through time. Admittedly, our national labs haven't quite figured out time travel just yet, but they do analyze power.

For instance, at the end of 2017, there was over 144 GW of solar photovoltaic (PV) and wind power in the United States combined. To help put this number in perspective, it's important to know just how big 1 gigawatt is. A watt is a measure of power and there's 1 billion watts in 1 GW. (And if you wanted to break it down even further, 1 million watts = 1 megawatt (MW) and 1,000 watts = 1 kilowatt (kW).)

Need a stronger visual? Here are six examples equal to 1 GW of power:

How Much Power is 1 Gigawatt?

3.125 Million PV Panels

Solar panels at the National Renewable Energy Lab with mountains in the background.
Based on a representative silicon model panel size of 320 watts.
NREL

431 Utility-Scale Wind Turbines

Based on the average utility-scale wind turbine size of 2.32 MW installed in 2017.

100 million LEDs

Different shapes of lighting fixtures using LED lights hang from the ceiing.
Based on typical performance, a light-emitting diode (LED) A19 lamp is roughly 78 lumens per watt and consumes about 10 watts. (Source)

Roughly 1.3 Million Horses

Based on horsepower to watts conversion: 746 watts = 1 horsepower.

2,000 Corvette Z06s

According to the automaker's website, the Chevy Corvette Z06 engine delivers 650 horsepower. Two-thousand of those engines would equal 1.3 million horsepower, or 1 GW.

12,500 Nissan Leafs

Manufacturer photo of a Nissan Leaf
Nissan

According to the automaker's website, the Nissan Leaf has an 110 kilowatt (kW) motor. So, 1 million kW divided by 110 kW = the maximum power of 9,090 Nissan Leafs.