The Sustainable Workforce Affordable Power Initiative (SWAP)- Utilizing Near Zero Energy Home Replacements

Period of Performance: 04/28/2015 - 12/31/2015


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

524 W. Third Street Unit 5
Lexington, KY 40508
Firm POC, Principal Investigator


This project is relevant to USDA's Strategic Goal to, "Assist rural communities to create prosperity so they are self-sustaining, repopulating, and economically thriving" (USDA, 2014). By creating solutions for rural affordable housing, entrepreneurship, and electric utility financial sustainability, the proposed work simultaneously addresses issues that USDA supports individually through the Rural Housing Service and the Rural Utility Service and aims to do so at greatly reduced overall program costs.Rural Kentucky is facing several urgent issues relevant to communities across the country--an energy-intensive housing stock; a rural electric utility system in transition; job losses from a rapidly declining coal industry; and the need to address climate change. Three million rural Americans living in pre-HUD code mobile homes spend an estimated $3.8 billion in energy bills every year and contribute to increased peak power demand on electric utilities. As coal-fired power plants are being retired at an unprecedented rate, the rural electric co-operatives (REC), which serve 327 out of the 353 persistent poverty counties in the country, are struggling to keep power affordable while undertaking massive infrastructure upgrades. The Sustainable Workforce Affordable Power (SWAP) initiative aims to enable the broad-scale replacement of old, unhealthy mobile homes with near zero energy homes and to finance them entirely through the energy savings, while reducing costs for RECs, their customers and industry.In Phase I, we test the feasibility of a combination of energy and material strategies for such a replacement home. Specifically, we will: develop a customer-directed product specification; use an integrated energy cost analysis that includes low-tech components; determine the home's peak electric demand on the grid; prototype a novel wall system using rurally sourced materials; and assess the projected impact on rural communities. In Phase II, we will integrate selected components into an attractive home design, test assemblies, and build a prototype home. SWAP has the potential to divert billions of dollars from continued investment in power plant construction (which may have a limited useful life due to climate change) into rural community use by cost-effectively improving housing stock, supporting utility viability, and creating jobs in climate mitigation.