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What is a Gigawatt?

By Hon. Dennis McGinn
Assistant Secretary of the Navy – Energy, Installations & Environment

If you’ve ever seen Back to the Future, you’ll know that in order to get the DeLorean running again, Doc needed 1.21 gigawatts of power. When he uttered that amount in his eccentric way, you probably either thought that metric was made up, or had no idea what it meant, much like Marty McFly. But rest assured a gigawatt is a very real thing, and what’s more, it is the key measurement for one of Secretary Mabus’ (SECNAV) energy goals for the Navy.

In May 2014, SECNAV set a goal for the Navy to bring one gigawatt (GW) of renewable energy into procurement by the end of 2015 and it wasn’t to power up the DeLorean; the Renewable Energy Program Office was created to help meet this goal in order to increase our mission effectiveness and operational efficiency.  Since not many people can conceptualize how much power one GW actually is, let’s try to put that into perspective to show the significance of this goal. Here are nine things that actually equal one GW of generation:

1. Almost 6.7 million solar panels

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A view of solar panels being installed at Naval Station Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

That’s enough to cover the floor size of about 13 U.S. Pentagons!
(Using 150watts (w) rated solar panels with dimensions of 49.4inches (in) x 38.5in.) Source


2. 400 wind turbines

080708-A-1912B-003
The wind turbines on top of John Paul Jones Hill have been fully operational since July 2005 and will save Naval Station Guantanamo Bay more than $1 million by decreasing fuel usage by 250,000 gallons this year.

(Based on the rated capacity of an average 2.5 megawatt (MW) wind turbine) Source


3. Almost 7 billion spinning hamster wheels

Hamster running in the wheel

Cutest power source ever, but you have to feed them veggies.

(Based on a hamster generating 50 milliamps of current at 3 volts) Source


4. About 5 million cyclists

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Service members and volunteers participate in the Ride 2 Recovery Cyclefest, a noncompetitive fundraising bike ride benefiting wounded military veterans.

We need more bike lanes…

(Based on the average rider producing 200 w at a given time) Source


5. About 1.3 million horses

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Norco’s Saddle Sore Riders complete a horseback tour of Naval Weapons Station Seal Beach, Detachment Norco.

That’s enough horses (with some to spare) for every person in Dallas, TX.

(Based on horsepower to watts conversion: 746 w = 1 horsepower)


6. Almost 17 days of power used by Walt Disney World

Sailors from various U.S. Navy commands throughout Navy's Southeast Region march before Cinderella's Castle before entering onto Main St. inside Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom.
Sailors from various U.S. Navy commands throughout Navy’s Southeast Region march before Cinderella’s Castle before entering onto Main St. inside Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom.

Powering the happiest place on Earth for more than a fortnight!

(Based on 60 MW average consumption per day for Walt Disney World) Source


7. The average power consumption of more than seven Boeing 747 passenger planes

Boeing 747 aircraft in is landing at Princess Juliana International Airport in Netherlands Antilles in July 19, 2013 in St Martin.

(Based on average consumption per plane of 140 MW) Source


8. The peak power output of more than five Nimitz-class aircraft carriers

Sailors spell out #USA with the American flag on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in honor of the nation's upcoming Independence Day weekend.
Sailors spell out #USA with the American flag on the flight deck of the aircraft carrier USS Theodore Roosevelt in honor of the nation’s upcoming Independence Day weekend.

(Based on peak power output of about 194 MW) Source


9. The maximum power output of about eight GE90-115B jet engines

Aviation Machinist's Mate 3rd Class Joshua Ray of Amherst, Va., assigned to the "Tomcatters" of Fighter Squadron Three One (VF-31), positions an engine skid supporting an F110-GE-400 turbofan jet engine across the flight deck aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).
Aviation Machinist’s Mate 3rd Class Joshua Ray of Amherst, Va., assigned to the “Tomcatters” of Fighter Squadron Three One (VF-31), positions an engine skid supporting an F110-GE-400 turbofan jet engine across the flight deck aboard USS John C. Stennis (CVN 74).

That’s the most powerful jet engine in the world!

(Based on jet’s horsepower. Pictured is the similar F100-GE-400 turbofan jet engine.) Source


As Doc would say, “Great Scott!”—that’s a whole lot of power. Our Department of the Navy goal is ambitious, but it’s achievable. More importantly than how much power a gigawatt is, is the incredible energy security and resiliency benefits procuring renewable energy will bring to the Navy.

The mission of the Navy is to have presence everywhere in the world, to fight and win wars, and deter future wars. In order to maintain presence, the Navy needs access to reliable supplies of energy, or energy security. By investing in renewable energy, we will improve our energy security by diversifying the power sources available to our installations, stabilize what we pay for power over the long-term, and increase the resiliency of the shore-based energy sources. The bottom line is that one gigawatt of renewable energy is going to help us be a better and stronger Navy. Forward to the Future!

 

 

 

 

 

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