What is a Watt?
Before we get into gigawatts, let’s first discuss what a watt is. Simply put, a watt is a unit of power. If you think back to your science classes, a watt is calculated as the amount of energy used over time, specifically one Joule per second. Powering something like a light bulb may use only 60 watts, or 60W, whereas something larger like a refrigerator may use anywhere from 350-800 watts.
When your source of electricity is from the grid, you are paying for each watt you use to power each item in your home that requires electricity to run. Although something like a lamp may cost 25 cents a day, it is important to think about how many appliances, light bulbs, televisions, etc. are plugged into the average home. These costs add up over the month, and by the end of the year total to thousands of dollars. With solar power you receive the same energy made at your home without paying the grid.
When we talk about watts in terms of solar energy for a home or commercial property, we measure in kilowatts, which is a thousand watts of power. Even larger commercial solar projects can be measured using megawatts, or a million watts.
What is a Gigawatt?
A gigawatt is one billion watts. To generate this much power would require over three million PV modules on over three acres of land. Due to the availability of space, you’re not likely to see a singular gigawatt solar array, but through multiple kilowatt and megawatt installations, we get closer and closer to that 10GW goal. We currently have four gigawatts of solar power distributed throughout New York both industrially and residentially. This energy is enough to power over 710,000 homes.
This goal of reaching 10 gigawatts by 2030 means a lot of things for New Yorkers. One benefit to this initiative is that it has resulted in a 70% decrease in the cost of solar power systems. It has also created over 12,000 jobs in the industry and will help to make New York a cleaner and more efficient state.