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How Many Solar Panels to Generate 1 Megawatt

By Benjamin Strusnik May 17, 2022

Table of Contents


Are you joining in with the rest of the world in making the sustainable decision by switching to solar power and conserving energy while reducing your carbon footprint? 

Do you want to utilize the sun’s energy to power most of your home, but you’re not fully aware of how many solar panels a residential household needs to generate 1 megawatt?

Perhaps you have already decided to go solar, but you aren’t sure of what 1 megawatt of energy can power.

However, before installing a solar panel in your home or business, it’s important to start by understanding how many solar panels it takes to produce 1 megawatt of power and what appliances can be powered using just 1 megawatt.

The following article will answer all the posed questions and will give you, the reader, a great understanding of how much 1 megawatt can do.

What Is A Megawatt Of Solar Power

how many solar panels generate 1 megawatt

Since its first arrival, the solar panel industry has continued to gain enormous attention, and right now, the industry is thriving. Interestingly, a solar panel installer is one of the fastest-growing jobs in countries that make good use of solar panel systems.

Many of the world’s population have already adopted this impressive technology. From homeowners to businesses, they have all made the smart decision to switch to solar-powered systems, living greener and cleaner by powering their homes with this renewable energy source.

A single megawatt (MW) is equivalent to one million watts of power. This is far more than the energy needed to power an average 1,500-square-foot home. Megawatts, kilowatts, and watts are terms that are commonly used in power systems when describing energy production.

Typically, domestic solar panel systems have a capacity of between 1 and 4 kilowatts. Residential solar energy systems produce around 250 and 400 watts each hour. However, what exactly is a megawatt of solar power equivalent to?

It’s estimated that, on average, solar panels that can produce 1 megawatt of power can generate enough electricity to meet the needs of 164 homes in the United States. Ultimately, 1 megawatt of solar energy can go a long way, but how many panels do you need to produce that 1 megawatt of power?

How Many Solar Panels Are Needed

We need to consider a few important factors to answer this question. To figure out how many panels are needed to produce a single megawatt, we need to find out how much each panel generates as a single unit.

So, before you try and figure out how many panels you need, you need to ask yourself what type of solar panel you need.

The amount of electricity a single panel can generate depends on three factors – size, efficiency, and the amount of sunlight.

how many solar panels can generate 1 megawatt

Panel Size

Typically, a single solar panel is made up of 60 silicon photovoltaic cells, which are the devices that convert the sun's incoming light rays into usable electricity. Most residential solar panel systems have these types of panels installed.

Essentially, a bigger solar panel has a large surface area of photovoltaic cells which allows them to generate more power throughout the day. Therefore, the bigger your solar panels, the fewer you need to generate 1 megawatt of energy.

Solar Efficiency

The number of panels you need to generate 1 megawatt of power also depends on the efficiency of the individual panels.

More efficient solar panels have monocrystalline solar cells that perform well in both overcast and temperate regions.

Polycrystalline solar cells are less efficient and aren’t great at generating high levels of electricity, even at higher light levels.

So, if you want to generate 1 megawatt of solar energy, your best choice would be to go for monocrystalline solar cells.

Monocrystalline solar cells are best suited for areas with lower levels of average sunshine and where the household electricity demands are high.

Sunlight Supply

The most important factor in determining how many solar panels you need to produce 1 megawatt of power is the amount of sunlight that makes contact with your panels throughout a 24-hour day.

If you have the most efficient, state-of-the-art monocrystalline solar panels but only a few hours of sunlight, your panel will produce only a little electricity.

Sunlight is the key to ensuring that your solar panels produce a sufficient amount of energy. However, if you stay in an area that gets little sunshine, you could look into other alternatives, such as an off-grid solar power system.

how many solar panels would generate 1 megawatt

Now that we know what affects the energy output of solar panels, we can now answer the question of how much is needed to produce one megawatt.

So, How Many Panels

Let’s take all the previous factors above and put them in a simple example to make our lives easier. Thankfully, the solar panel’s wattage is always calculated for you and is usually written on the panel itself.

If you have 200-watt solar panels and want to reach one million watts of power–1 megawatt—you would need at least 5,000 solar panels.

However, remember that these panels won’t produce the same amount of energy every day because of weather conditions and sunlight availability. Still, most of the time, we will be able to get to approximately 1 megawatt of power.

If you have a little more money available to you and are willing to make the long-term investment, then going for a panel with a higher voltage would be your best bet.

If you purchase a panel that is 320 watts instead of 200, you need fewer panels to achieve the same energy output of 1 megawatt.

Let’s assume that we have the perfect conditions for solar production; we would need 3,125 solar panels to produce the same 1 megawatt of energy.

Modern solar panel systems have higher efficiency and have higher overall wattages. Nowadays, standard residential solar panels are 500 watts. Therefore, you would need two thousand 500-watt solar panels to reach an energy output of one megawatt.

Remember, the higher the panel wattage, the larger the solar panels are. There have been showcases of 800-watt solar panels, but they are enormous and not suitable for home installation, not to mention their price tag.

The Only Calculation You Need

How Many Solar Panels do i need to Generate 1 Megawatt

Now that you know everything about solar panel efficiency and the number of panels needed to produce one megawatt, the last thing you need is the calculation.

If you have your eye on a solar system and want to know how many solar panels you need to produce 1 megawatt, all you need to do is simply divide one million by the wattage of your panel.

What Can I Run With 1 Megawatt of Power

If you have a 1-megawatt solar panel system installed, you will be able to run any and every appliance in your household, as well as pretty much every other house in your neighborhood.

The appliances with the greatest need for energy are heating or cooling devices, so how many solar panels do you need to run a refrigerator? Typically, refrigerators carry a load of 1,500-3,800 watts, which is a fraction of what a 1-megawatt solar system can supply. That means you would only need eight panels of 100 watts each to run your panels for four days straight.

Air conditioning is the most expensive when referring to the amount of energy it consumes. Luckily you only need about 14 solar panels to run an AC unit for an entire month, which is a tiny proportion of the amount needed to produce one megawatt.

Ultimately, you can easily power your entire house with one megawatt of solar power without relying on government energy utilities.  

What Does This All Cost

There’s no question that this number of solar panel systems is an initial huge financial investment. Realistically, you’re never going to need to make this amount of energy, but it’s at least an interesting thought experiment to see how many solar panels you need to produce this much power.

Even by investing in a significantly small solar energy system, you’ll save a substantial amount by reducing your energy bills. You can even earn some money back from government incentives and by selling solar back to the grid.

A one-megawatt system is massively powerful, and with increased power comes a hefty price tag. To install a one-megawatt solar power system will cost you around $522,550, which is a huge investment. However, the good news is that you would be able to supply the government with electricity for the next 25 years, earning back massively.

How Many Solar Panels Are Needed to Generate 1 Megawatt

The maintenance costs on this type of solar system will cost you around $18030, but you could use your monthly returns to pay for these regular maintenance fees.

Conclusion

Solar panels are powerful devices capable of producing large amounts of energy to supply electricity to your household.

The amount of solar panels needed to produce the incredible power of one megawatt is largely dependent on the panel's efficiency and external conditions, such as the availability of sunlight.

One megawatt solar systems are a great way to reduce your monthly energy bills and eliminate them, leading to long-term financial security. As the saying goes, solar panels pay for themselves.

It is only advised to seek further assistance and consult with a solar panel company before making the financial decision to install a solar system. Almost all companies will evaluate your property to see if it is well suited for a solar system to be installed.

Shop Solar Kits has a great option on their website, which allows you to select the best solar kit for your home. They also have an instant financing option that will allow you to purchase a solar panel and pay it off later.

Solar panel technology is continuously advancing, with modern solar panels having a greater watt load. This trend will continue to improve in the future. Panels will become more affordable and easier to use.

Now that you’re pretty much an expert on all things solar power systems and understand the intricacies of how many are needed to produce 1 megawatt, it’s time to make the smart choice and switch to cleaner solar energy.

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