Orders of magnitude (power): Wikis


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A thermal power plant generates electric power from thermal energy

This page lists examples of the power in watts produced by various different sources of energy. They are grouped by orders of magnitude, and each section covers three orders of magnitude, or a factor of one thousand.


Below 1 Watt


yoctowatt (10-24 watt)

zeptowatt (10-21 watt)

attowatt (10-18 watt)

femtowatt (10-15 watt)

  • 2.5 fW - tech: minimum discernible signal at the antenna terminal of a good FM radio receiver
  • 10 fW (-110 dBm) - tech: approximate lower limit of power reception on digital spread-spectrum cell phones

picowatt (10-12 watt)

  • 1 pW - biomed: average power consumption of a human cell
  • 18.4 pW - tech: (1.84 x 10-11 watt) power lost by a proton in the Large Hadron Collider at 7000 GeV[1]
  • 150 pW - biomed: power entering a human eye from a 100-watt lamp 1 km away

nanowatt (10-9 watt)

microwatt (10-6 watt)

milliwatt (10-3 watt)

Between 1 and 1000 Watts


  • 4 W - tech: the power consumption of an incandescent night light
  • 5 W - legal: maximum power output of a CB or hand-held radio transceiver
  • 14 W - tech: the power consumption of a typical household compact fluorescent light bulb
  • 20-40 W - biomed: approximate power consumption of the human brain[2]
  • 30-40 W - tech: the power consumption of a typical household fluorescent tube light
  • 60 W - tech: the power consumption of a typical household incandescent light bulb
  • 100 W - biomed: approximate basal metabolic rate used by the human body[3]
  • 120 W - tech: power output of 1 m² solar panel in full sunlight (approx. 12% efficiency)
  • 130 W - tech: peak power consumption of a Pentium 4 CPU
  • 253 W (2,215 kWh/year) - geo: per capita average power use of the world in 2001
  • 290 W - units: approximately 1000 BTU/hour
  • 300-400 W - tech: typical PC power supply maximum output
  • 400 W - tech: legal limit of power output of an amateur radio station in the United Kingdom
  • 500 W - biomed: power output (useful work plus heat) of a person working hard physically
  • 745.7 W - units: 1 horsepower
  • 750 W - astro: the amount of sunshine falling on a square metre of the Earth's surface on a clear day
  • 909 W - biomed: peak output power of a healthy human (nonathlete) during a 30-second cycle sprint at 30.1 degree Celsius. [4]

Above 1000 Watts

kilowatt (103 watts)

megawatt (106 watts)

  • 1.3 MW - tech: power output of P-51 Mustang fighter aircraft
  • 1.5 MW - tech: peak power output of GE's standard wind turbine
  • 2.5 MW - biomed: peak power output of a blue whale
  • 3 MW - tech: mechanical power output of a diesel locomotive
  • 10 MW - tech: highest ERP allowed for an UHF television station
  • 10.3 MW - geo: electrical power output of Togo
  • 16 MW -- tech: rate at which a typical gasoline pump transfers chemical energy to a vehicle
  • 17 to 80 MW - tech: approximate maximum power output of a Nd:YAG laser used in Particle Image Velocimetry (100mJ over 6ns to 400mJ over 5ns, both at 532nm)
  • 75 MW - tech: maximum power output of one GE90 jet engine as installed on the Boeing 777
  • 140 MW - tech: average power consumption of a Boeing 747 passenger aircraft
  • 190 MW - tech: peak power output of a Nimitz-class aircraft carrier
  • 900 MW - tech: electric power output of a CANDU nuclear reactor
  • 959 MW - geo: average electrical power consumption of Zimbabwe in 1998

The productive capacity of electrical generators operated by utility companies is often measured in MW. Few things can sustain the transfer or consumption of energy on this scale; some of these events or entities include: lightning strikes, naval craft (such as aircraft carriers and submarines), engineering hardware, and some scientific research equipment (such as supercolliders and large lasers).

For reference, about 10,000 100-watt lightbulbs or 5,000 computer systems would be needed to draw 1 megawatt. Also, 1 MW equals approximately 1360 horsepower. Modern high-powered diesel-electric railroad locomotives typically have a peak power output of 3–5 MW, whereas a typical modern nuclear power plant produces on the order of 500–2000 MW peak output.

gigawatt (109 watts)

terawatt (1012 watts)

  • 2 TW - astro: approximate power generated between the surfaces of Jupiter and its moon Io due to Jupiter's tremendous magnetic field.[9]
  • 3.34 TW - geo: average total (gas, electricity, etc) power consumption of the U.S. in 2005 [10]
  • 15 TW - geo: average total power consumption of the human world in 2004
  • 44 TW - geo: average total heat flux from earth's interior[11]
  • 75 TW - eco: based on global net primary production (= biomass production) via photosynthesis
  • 50 to 200 TW - weather: rate of heat energy release by a hurricane
  • 290 TW - tech: the power the Z Machine reaches in 1 billionth of a second when it is fired
  • 300 TW - tech: power reached by the extremely high-power Hercules laser from the University of Michigan.

petawatt (1015 watts)

exawatt (1018 watts)

12.75 EW - sci-fi: Maximum warp core output of the fictional Galaxy class starship, as stated in Star Trek: The Next Generation episode True Q[8].

zettawatt (1021 watts)

yottawatt (1024 watts)

  • 5.3 YW - tech: power produced by the Tsar Bomba fusion bomb, the most powerful man made device
  • 384.6 YW - astro: luminosity of the sun
  • 400 YW - geo: estimated total power output of a Type-II civilization on the Kardashev scale.

greater than one thousand yottawatts

Orders of magnitude
area angular velocity charge currency data density energy
force frequency length magnetic field mass numbers power
pressure specific energy density specific heat capacity speed temperature time voltage
Conversion of units
physical unit SI SI base unit SI derived unit SI prefix Planck units

See also



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