Los Angeles Electricity Consumption Map- Beta Launch!

The Launch

We are proud to announce the Beta Launch of T.E.S.L.A.’s Los Angeles Electricity Consumption Map! The website features an interactive map of the City of Los Angeles. The main feature is the electricity consumption of Energy Analysis Zones (EAZs). The EAZs are specially-designed by research-affiliates at UC Davis and map the energy consumption at the zip-plus-four level.

Other features of the website include:

  • Geo-locator: This feature allows users the ability to search for energy use around a specific location.
  • Historical Data: The data collected includes electricity consumption over 6 years (2005-2010). Users can view each year to compare how electricity use patterns in the City of Los Angeles have changed over time.
  • Radius: This feature allows the user to specify a certain radius (ranging from 1/2 mile to 5 miles). Currently, this feature draws a circle around  a specified location to show electricity use in the surrounding area. Eventually we want it to calculate the total electricity use for all of the EAZs within that radius.
  • Electricity Level: This features allows the user to search for high-consuming EAZs.
  • LEED Building Overlay: Using data from the US Green Building Council and the California chapter, we created a layer to display where the LEED buildings in Los Angeles are located.


Why Energy Mapping?

T.E.S.L.A.’s website is meant for electricity consumers. In other words, this website is for everyone, including Los Angeles residents, utility companies, policy makers, and researchers. Providing information about electricity consumption is useful because it illuminates behaviors. Energy use is often an ambiguous action and is difficult to comprehend. By using a map to visualize how energy consumption is dispersed throughout the City, people have the ability to make more informed decisions.


Evolution of the Website

The Los Angeles Energy Consumption Map website has evolved considerably since we first announced our plans.  The main differences between our initial brainstorming and the midterm product are in the website design. We added more interactive features than we previously envisioned. Also, our EAZs changed from polygons to dots so that we could increase the functionality of our website. Please refer to our previous blog posts to see more detail about our website progression.


Team Contributions

The T.E.S.L.A. team worked together to make the website as user-friendly as possible. As a team, we collaborated on brainstorming, site design, implementation, and launch. Bellow we describe the unique contributions from each team member:

  • Jacki: As our Technical Genius and Principal Dreamer, Jacki was heavily involved with the data set. She worked with the Institute of the Environment to obtain the data. Additionally, she worked on transferring the data from GIS files to Google Fusion Tables. Jacki also worked tirelessly on the Radius/Sum functions, which turned out to be a bit trickier than we initially thought!
  • Kristen:  Our Energy Super Star and Data Cruncher had her hands in a little bit of everything. She created the KMZ file and edited it to display the Los Angeles LEED buildings. She also worked on the Google Fusion Tables with Jacki and made the function for the Energy Level filter. Kristen oversaw the overall website progress and was the principal scribe.
  • Kyle: Our Math Extraordinaire and Voice of Reason sure had his hands full! He went above and beyond to make this website look amazing. Kyle designed our framework and worked with Zhongbo to style the website to Jacki and Kristen’s ever-changing whims. Kyle’s code is beautifully written and required many, many, many hours in the lab. Specifically, he made all of the interface “work” and made sure that it was interactive. He was also our tech support when we had bugs in our code that we couldn’t figure out.
  • Zhongbo: This Creative Director and Voice of the People finished TWO studio projects this week! Zhongbo created our flashy title and banner at the top of the page. She also worked with Kyle on CSS and Bootstrap styling.


Challenges and Head-Scratching Moments

We would like to say that getting to this point was smooth sailing. However, we did encounter a few rough patches along the way.

First, getting our data took more time than we foresaw. Since we didn’t know what we were working with, we had (naively) assumed that we would create maps using ArcGIS and import them as overlays into Google Maps. However, each map has about 150,000 Energy Analysis Zones and the files were much too large to import. Additionally, even if we could have imported them in their current state, the functionality of the website would have been limited because it would take about 15-20 seconds to load the window. Instead, we opted to transform our data (for the time being) into Google Fusion Tables with points at the centroid of each EAZ.

Another problem was that each year of data had to be broken into three Google Fusion Tables due to the data limitations. Jacki and Kyle (with the help of EY Ventures) had a wonderful time figuring out how to integrate all of the data. Additionally, for every function or call, we had to call 18 Google Fusion Tables of data. This added a considerable amount of code and increased the likelihood of typos along the way.

In terms of interactive functions, creating the radius was more difficult than we originally anticipated. Although it seems simple, this function had Jacki…and Kyle… and Kristen…and Zhongbo… and Ryan all scratching their heads for several days. We originally wanted to generate circles and sum all of the EAZ electricity use within a certain radius. However, after consulting with EY Ventures, we decided that this vision will be deferred until the Final Project.

Finally, our last head-scratching moment was with our Google Fusion tables. When we tried to change the buckets (which is Google’s word for classification of different values), the map would not update to reflect the new categories. Eventually, Jacki pulled through and figured out how to make the changes stick.


Moving Forward

For the final project we hope to build on the previous work. Some of the features we would like to incorporate include:

  • Tiling: Instead of calling ArcGIS with large files, we want to tile each year’s data so that it runs quickly.
  • Additional Data: Currently, the energy consumption map provides interesting information but it is not as applicable as it could be. We are waiting on more data that includes the building type for each EAZ. This will illuminate the different types of energy use (residential, commercial, etc) and will but the consumption in context.
  • Google Charts API: We plan on using Google Charts to display interesting information (such as historical energy use for a specific EAZ, building descriptions, etc).
  • Radius Summation: We want to be able to sum the electricity use in a given area. We will attempt for a second time to get this function to work… but this time we will succeed!

We are proud of our Beta Launch and hope that you find the website interesting and useful. If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to contact Jacki, Kristen, Kyle, or Zhongbo. We would like to thank Yoh and Ryan for their extensive help with brainstorming and coding.

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