Utility 101: Megawatts    


We use a lot of fancy utility terms in our communications – and yes, even here on the blog. We can’t help it. It just comes out. So today, I’m doing the first Utility 101 post. In these posts I’ll try to explain some of the terms we use all time that you probably aren’t too familiar with.

We live this stuff and often expect you to know everything about it too. Not really fair, right?. If I get stuck in utility jargon mode – please call me on it. If it doesn’t make sense, then I should do a better job explaining it.

Here’s an example: what is a megawatt? When we talk about the generation of electricity at one of our dams, natural gas-fired plants, our biomass plant and even a wind farm, we often refer to the output in megawatts or MW. A megawatt is a measurement of electricity – roughly enough to power 750 homes. Of course, this varies by usage in each home, but it’s a good general number.

To make a comparison, Avista’s hydroelectric dam at Monroe Street has a generation capacity of 15 MW, while our Noxon Rapids hydro dam in Montana is much, much larger at 548.4 MW.

A megawatt is one million watts. A kilowatt is 1,000 watts. Customer rates are charged by the kilowatt hour or kWh. A kWh is equal to using 1,000 watts for an hour.

So now when we say we are looking to add 150 megawatts of wind by the end of 2012 – you know what we’re talking about. 

Ideas for the next Utility 101 post? Send me an e-mail or drop me a comment below.
Posted by  System Account  on  8/31/2009
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