While most of us are very familiar with and even proud of our system of measurement, the U.S. customary units, we are taking a moment to celebrate National Metric Day by recognizing something that is a big part of our lives.
Most of us use this every day and are fairly familiar with it. Whether talking about that new microwave you purchased or which lightbulb to buy, the metric system is very important. The unit of measurement we’re talking about is the WATT!
The watt is a measurement of power output over time (Joules/second), which is like horsepower in your car. The amount of power your car puts out per second is measured in horsepower, which can be converted to watts by simply multiplying the horsepower by 746. That product is now in watts.
A fun fact about the watt is the man whom it is named after, James Watt, actually came up with the imperial system measurement of horsepower. Kind of ironic, isn’t it?
You may be asking yourself, “Why should I care about watts?” We’re getting to that.
At Duke Energy, we use watts every day when measuring how much electricity a home needs, a neighborhood needs and even how much a city needs. We need this to calculate how much power to produce so you can turn on your lights and appliances, and have running water in your home.
Of course, measuring how much power a city needs is a little more complicated – there are a lot of zeros. Thankfully, the metric system has a simple way of dealing with lots of zeros. If you add “kilo” in front of watts it means there’s 1,000 watts. If you add “mega,” you get a million watts (1,000,000) and if you add “giga,” you have a billion watts (1,000,000,000).
Let’s go back to the part about powering your homes, smartwatches, phones, computers and even some cars. Our nuclear generation facilities use the enormous amount of energy created through nuclear fission to produce steam, which is used by a turbine generator to generate electricity that powers the world around us. This power output is best measured in wattage. In the Carolinas, six nuclear plants with 11 reactors produce nearly 11 gigawatts, enough to power over 7 million homes. Remember what we said about all those zeros? – that’s about 11,000,000,000 watts. All in a carbon-free, efficient and reliable package! Say watt?! Sorry, we had to do it.
Happy National Metric Day!