How Much Is a Gigawatt, Anyways?

By Motley Fool Staff Markets Fool.com

Last year, General Electric (NYSE: GE) signed contracts to buy 7 gigawatts of energy annually from onshore wind -- but what does that mean? In this clip from Industry Focus: Energy, Motley Fool analysts Taylor Muckerman and Sean O'Reilly explain how big a gigawatt is, and what those deals mean in the context of renewable energy's ongoing surge.

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A full transcript follows the video.

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This podcast was recorded on Feb. 9, 2017.

Gaby Lapera: I need some context for a gigawatt. How much is a gigawatt?

Taylor Muckerman:1,000 megawatts.

Lapera:Right, but, in terms of --

Sean O'Reilly:Have you ever seenBack to the Future?

Lapera:Yes.

O'Reilly:You need 1.21jigawattsto power the flux capacitor.

Muckerman:Jigawattsor gigawatts?

O'Reilly:Gigawatts, I'm sorry.

Lapera:I wouldn't have even blinked atjigawatts, because the science in that movie is questionable.

O'Reilly:It's a bolt of lightning -- what's questionable -- I'm kidding.

Muckerman:Very, very frightening.

Lapera:How much does that mean for a regular person? How much does a regular household use? How much does a city use? Some scale -- I mean, 7 gigawatts sounds like it could be a lot.

Muckerman:If you're looking at -- 1 gigawatt could realistically power 300,000 homes.

Lapera:Oh. OK.

Muckerman:So that's a lot of energy there.

Lapera:So 7 gigawatts is a lot.

Muckerman:Yes, it is. If you got it straight from the source, you're probably looking at 750,000 homes. But, obviously, you have to account for transmission loss and things like that. So probably right around 300,000 homes per gigawatt.

O'Reilly:To do the math, 8point3 Energy Partners currently generates enough electricity to power about 200,000 homes, two-thirds of that. But it's all from the sun.

Lapera:Fair enough, I just needed some context for that before I understand.

Muckerman:Yeah, I don't know how many homes there are globally, but 7 gigawatts, I'll do some math here -- it's a lot of homes.

O'Reilly:That's a lot of homes.

Lapera:That's a lot of homes. That's really impressive.

Gaby Lapera has no position in any stocks mentioned. Sean O'Reilly has no position in any stocks mentioned. Taylor Muckerman has no position in any stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool owns shares of General Electric. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy.