Volts in Gigawatt
How many volts of electricity make up 121 Jigwatts?
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.
Click here to return to the Physics Archives
Update: June 2012