An Analysis of Interactive Solar Energy Web Maps for Urban Energy Sustainability

Cartographic Perspectives

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Title An Analysis of Interactive Solar Energy Web Maps for Urban Energy Sustainability
Creator Fish, Carolyn S.; The Pennsylvania State University
Calvert, Kirby; University of Guelph
Subject web maps; urban planning; solar energy; content analysis; competitive analysis
Description Maps and geographic information systems (GIS) have become vital tools for decision-making, communication, and outreach in the domain of urban energy sustainability. One emerging example involves interactive online maps that allow users to assess rooftop solar energy potential on a building of interest. These maps are interesting in two ways: they are new forms of technology in and of themselves, and they have only become relevant with the changes in renewable energy technologies that allow individuals to participate in this new economy of energy production. The purpose of this study is to describe and analyze the cartographic representation and functionality of urban-scale solar energy maps in the United States. Using competitive analysis, we assess twelve interactive online maps to understand their: (1) design, (2) usage of visual variables and interaction operators, and (3) content, purpose, and goals. Across these three types of assessment, we find both a wide variety as well as some consistent themes. Our results also show that some maps followed cartographic conventions (Brewer 2016; Slocum et al. 2009) while others did not. Through our analysis we develop a set of best practices that can be used to improve the effectiveness and widen the functionality of online solar energy maps. In particular, we make recommendations on how to develop future online, interactive renewable energy maps in a way that keeps the end user in mind while communicating relevant information to a broader range of stakeholders involved in urban energy sustainability (homeowners, utility operators, city officials, and urban planners).
Publisher North American Cartographic Information Society
Date 2017-05-17
Type Featured Articles
content analysis
Format application/pdf
Source Cartographic Perspectives; No 85 (2016); 5-22
Language eng
Rights Authors who publish with this journal agree to the following terms:Authors retain copyright and grant the journal right of first publication, with the work simultaneously licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution License that allows others to share the work with an acknowledgement of the work's authorship and initial publication in this journal.Authors are able to enter into separate, additional contractual arrangements for the non-exclusive distribution of the journal's published version of the work (e.g., post it to an institutional repository or publish it in a book), with an acknowledgement of its initial publication in this journal.Authors are permitted and encouraged to post their work online (e.g., in institutional repositories or on their website) prior to and during the submission process, as it can lead to productive exchanges, as well as earlier and greater citation of published work (See The Effect of Open Access).

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