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Key Solar Energy Measurement Terms

January 5th, 2022 | By Roger Kuznia

Prospective solar panel buyers can run into a lot of unfamiliar terminology in the hunt for more information on how panels could benefit their homes or businesses. Knowing how to accurately measure solar energy is part of fully understanding how solar panels could potentially lead to savings over time. This knowledge isn’t something you pick up naturally though, so it’s worth your time to learn how solar energy is measured! 

Let’s go back to basics and review some of the key measurement terms you’ll need to know to understand how solar panels work in generating energy. 

What Are Watts?

Before we cover solar energy specifically, we’ll go over some key electric terms that play a role in the process.

  • Electricity is measured in watts (W). The watt is named in honor of James Watt, the inventor of the steam engine. One watt is equivalent to one ampere under the pressure of a volt. 
  • Let’s get to the root here on the power behind watts. A volt is the measurement of an electrical force, and when combined with an ohm, or the electrical resistance of the material the volt is in contact with, an electrical current is formed. This current is measured in amperes of power. 
  • One watt is a very small amount of power. While some electricity-dependent devices may need only a few watts’ worth of power to function, most of your home’s larger appliances will need a larger amounts of wattage to work. One thousand watts form a kilowatt (kW). This is the more commonly used unit of measurement for solar, given how much energy is produced and used over time. We’ll get into more detail about kilowatts below. 
  • Alternately, for larger electricity generation or use, larger units of measurement are used as needed. One megawatt (MW) is 1,000 kW, or one million watts, and one gigawatt (GW) is 1,000 MW, or one billion watts. Most homes will not encounter solar generation or use at these levels, but commercial solar panel use could see numbers accounted for here, depending on how many solar panels are installed. 

How Is Solar Energy Measured?

Now that you have been introduced to the basics of electricity measurement, let’s get into how to measure solar energy.

  • Your solar panels’ output is measured in kilowatt-hours (kWh). Given what we learned above, this measurement refers to how many thousands of watts you used per hour — in other words, one kWh would refer to one kilowatt used in one hour. 
  • If you used 10 kWh, that would be 10,000 watts of electricity used in one hour. This example isn’t a standard amount of energy to use, so don’t expect to necessarily encounter that amount as an expectation on your upcoming electric bills!
  • Megawatt-hours (MWh), or 1,000 kilowatts generated or used per hour, may be encountered on a sizable solar panel array. For residential solar panel use, it would be highly unlikely to encounter solar generation or use in MWh. 

Knowledge Is (Solar) Power

Understanding how solar energy works is a key part of taking full advantage of it in your everyday life, whether that’s for commercial use or just for your personal TV show binges. By knowing what each measurement means, you can enjoy your potential solar savings! Get in touch with our team today for more information on how solar panels could benefit your home or business. 

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