The watt (symbol: W) is a unit of power. In the International System of Units (SI) it is defined as a derived unit of 1 joule per second, and is used to quantify the rate of energy transfer.
The terms power and energy are frequently confused. Power is the rate at which energy is generated or consumed and hence is measured in units (e.g. watts) that represent energy per unit time.
For example, when a light bulb with a power rating of 100W is turned on for one hour, the energy used is 100 watt hours (W·h), 0.1 kilowatt hour, or 360 kJ. This same amount of energy would light a 40-watt bulb for 2.5 hours, or a 50-watt bulb for 2 hours.
Power stations are rated using units of power, typically megawatts or gigawatts (for example, the Three Gorges Dam is rated at approximately 22 gigawatts). This reflects the maximum power output it can achieve at any point in time. A power station’s annual energy output, however, would be recorded using units of energy (not power), typically gigawatt hours. Major energy production or consumption is often expressed as terawatt hours for a given period; often a calendar year or financial year. One terawatt hour of energy is equal to a sustained power delivery of approximately 114 megawatts for a period of one year. The watt second is a unit of energy, equal to the joule. One kilowatt hour is 3,600,000 watt seconds.
The watt second is used, for example, to rate the energy storage of flash lamps used in photography, although the term joule is generally employed. While watts per hour has a conceivable use in highly technical situations, it is almost always mistakenly used where watts or watt-hours is meant.