What exactly are megawatts and kilowatts, and how are they converted?

If you’ve only recently begun reading about solar panels, the technical terms you’ve come across could be confusing. Why are sizes of solar systems typically expressed in terms of kilowatts, and what does it even mean? Megawatts, what about them?

We’ve got you covered, so don’t worry. What you need to understand about converting megawatts to kilowatts and how these units apply to you and your solar system has been outlined.

Megawatt to kilowatt conversion table 

Recall that 1,000 kilowatts make up one megawatt.

To quickly convert from megawatts to kilowatts, refer to the following table:

Megawatt (MW)Kilowatt (kW)
0.01 MW10 kW
0.1 MW100 kW
1 MW1,000 kW
5 MW5,000 kW
10 MW10,000 kW
15 MW15,000 kW
20 MW20,000 kW
100 MW100,000 kW
1,000 MW1,000,000 kW

How to convert megawatts to kilowatts 

Converting megawatts to kilowatts is easy! All you have to do is multiply the number of megawatts by 1,000:

Number of megawatts x 1,000 = Number of kilowatts

Here’s an example of how to find how many kilowatts are in 30 megawatts:

30 MW x 1,000 = 30,000 kW

If you want to go from kilowatts to megawatts, do the opposite! Simply divide the number of kilowatts by 1,000 to find how many megawatts you have: 

Number of kilowatts ÷ 1,000 = Number of megawatts

What even are megawatts and kilowatts? 

The simplest form of power is the watt, which measures how quickly energy moves through an electrical system.

Since watts are a very modest unit of measurement and most families utilize thousands of them, you convert to kilowatts or megawatts rather than spelling out all those zeros.

1,000 watts make up one kilowatt. Therefore, you could easily write 7,000 watts as 7 kW if your house needed that much power.

Million watts make up one megawatt. Kilowatts are substantially less than megawatts, which are often used to describe power on a massive scale, such as the amount of power that a whole utility company is supplying.

Gigawatts are the next unit of measurement after megawatts and are used to indicate the volume of power produced on a national scale. One billion watts is one gigawatt.

Are kilowatts and kilowatt-hours different? 

Yes, kilowatts and kilowatt-hours are two different things

Kilowatts represent power. A kilowatt-hour (kWh) measures energy, or the amount of power over time. You’re probably familiar with kilowatt-hours – it’s the unit used to measure your energy usage on your electricity bill. 

How to figure out how many kWh an appliance uses?

Simply multiply the appliance’s wattage—which indicates how much electricity it requires to operate—by the number of hours it has been running to get how many kilowatt-hours it has consumed. Let’s use a 3.5 kW air conditioner that runs for 5 hours as an example: 3.5 kW x 5 hours = 17.5 kWh The same principles apply to megawatt-hours. Multiply the megawatts by the number of hours the system is running. Again, megawatts are a very huge unit of electricity, so you won’t encounter them very frequently.

Why are solar panel systems sold in kilowatts?

Every solar panel has a power output wattage that indicates how much power it is capable of producing under ideal circumstances. The majority of panels on the market now have a power output rating of 350 to 370 watts. You will eventually have thousands of watts of solar on your roof since you will need more than one solar panel to power your home. Therefore, we convert your system’s size to kilowatts (7.5 kW) rather than referring to it as 7,500 watts. The cost of solar panels is typically expressed as the “cost per watt” because each panel has a rated wattage. This enables consistent pricing that can be easily compared between systems.

How many kilowatts of solar should you install on your roof?

The majority of home solar systems in use today range in capacity from 6 to 7 kW. The precise amount you’ll require, though, will vary depending on your energy usage, where you live, the size of your roof, and even which way your house faces!

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