Momentum and Energy


What are some typical power outputs?

The following table was adapted from Wikipedia’s entry on “Orders of magnitude (power)” retrieved on November 13, 2009.

Unit Example*
femtowatt (10-15 watt)  
   10 fW — approximate lower limit of power reception of digital cell phones
picowatt (10-12 watt)  
   1 pW — average power consumption of a human cell
microwatt (10-6 watt)  
   1 μW — approximate consumption of a quartz wristwatch
milliwatt (10-3 watt)  
   5–10 mW — laser in a DVD player
   20–40 W — approximate power consumption of the human brain

70–100 W — approximate basal metabolic rate used by the human body

5–253 W — per capita average power use of the world in 2001

500 W — power output of a person working hard physically

909 W — peak output power of a healthy human (non-athlete) during a 30-second cycle sprint

kilowatt (103 watts)

1.366 kW — power received from the sun at Earth’s orbit by one square meter

up to 2 kW — approximate short-time power output of sprinting professional cyclists

1 kW to 2 kW — rate of heat output of a domestic electric tea kettle

11.4 kW — average power consumption per person in the United States as of 2009

40 kW to 200 kW — approximate range of power output of typical automobiles

megawatt (106 watts)

1.5 MW — peak power output of a wind turbine

2.5 MW — peak power output of a blue whale

3 MW — mechanical power output of a diesel locomotive

16 MW — rate at which a typical gasoline pump transfers chemical energy to a vehicle

140 MW — average power consumption of a Boeing 747 jumbo jet

200-500 MW — electrical power output of a typical nuclear power plant

gigawatt (109 watts)

2.074 GW — peak power generation of Hoover Dam

4.116 GW — installed capacity the world’s largest coal-fired power plant

18.3 GW — current electrical power generation of China’s Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric power plant

terawatt (1012 watts)

3.34 TW — average total power consumption of the United States in 2005

50 to 200 TW — rate of heat energy release by a hurricane

petawatt (1015 watts)

4 PW — estimated total heat flux transported by Earth’s atmosphere and ocean away from the equator towards the poles

174.0 PW — total power received by Earth from the sun

yottawatt (1024 watts)

384.6 YW — luminosity of the sun


5 X 1036W — approximate luminosity of the Milky Way galaxy

1 X 1040W — approximate luminosity of a quasar

1 X 1045W — approximate luminosity of a gamma-ray burst


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