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Question:
How many volts of electricity make up 121 Jigwatts?



Replies:
Actually, it is spelled "Gigawatt". Giga is a prefix meaning one billion (a thousand million for British types). So you have probably heard of Gigabytes, Gigaflops, Gigavolts. Well, maybe not yet, but you will. This is just like Mega being a prefix meaning one million. And Kilo meaning one thousand. These all come from the metric system... Anyway, the other part of Gigawatt is the watt - a watt is a unit of electric power, which is energy per unit time. You have probably heard of 100 watt light bulbs (the standard in the home) or 4 or 7 watt Christmas lights. And there are 60 watt or 150 watt speakers - all these are related to the brightness or energy used per second. One watt is equal to one Joule of energy used per second. Now a volt is something different - it is actually related to energy according to the amount of charge that experiences it (electricity is carried around by charged particles - electrons). There is also current, which is the amount of charge per second (measured in Amperes, or Amps). Typical household wiring has a fixed voltage (of 120 Volts) and the electrical equipment determines the current to get the power it wants. 1 Amp times 1 Volt = 1 Watt, so a 120 Watt light bulb will draw 1 Amp from the wires (given 120 Volts in your house). If you were producing 121 Gigawatts and trying to send it through wires at 1 Amp, you would have to run the voltage up to 121 billion volts... This actually is impossible in practice of course.

Arthur Smith



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