Retiree Designs A Hydroelectric Plant In His Backyard That Now Supplies Electricity To 300 Houses

Retiree designs a hydroelectric plant in his backyard that now supplies electricity to 300 houses
© Loren Holmes / DNA

An Anchorage resident has spent more than a decade planning and building a hydroelectric plant in his backyard. Now it can power more than 300 houses.

Dave Brailey has just connected his state-of-the-art hydroelectric system that he built on his hilly property near Ram Valley, above the Eagle River.

The Juniper Creek Hydroelectric Project began supplying power to area homes on July 24, through a connection with the Matanuska Electric Association.

Dave Brailey began dreaming of the $1.7 million project more than a decade ago. His wife, Melanie Janigo, and another couple are co-owners of the project and the land he sits on.

Brailey did the planning and most of the physical work, with occasional help from family and friends. He hired a civil engineer to supervise the project and other experts for specialized jobs. He paid a helicopter company to fly in materials such as large sections of pipe.

The 300-kilowatt project sits in a brushy gorge below Raina Peak.

An 18-inch pipe collects the water and drops it nearly a quarter of a mile, much of it underground, to a computer-controlled power plant that feeds electricity into power lines.

A spring that gushes out of the mountainside also contributes relatively warm water, keeping the project running year-round. A steep, switchback construction trail connects the structures.

At its peak in the summer, the Juniper Creek Hydroelectric Plant will power more than 300 homes, according to Brailey. At its lowest point in May, it will power about 50 homes.

I have always thought that we have to do something about carbon emissions, and this has become my purpose in life, to do something for my children and for humanity in the future.

Dave Braley.

According to him, the project will pay for itself in about 15 years and will produce electricity for several generations.

The Juniper Creek hydroelectric plant never got grants from state and federal agencies, although Brailey applied for them, he said. He called it “disappointing.” The entire investment came out of his pocket.

The Juniper Creek system provides a small fraction of the power used by the Matanuska Electric Association, said Ed Jenkin, the company’s chief operating officer.

But it is unique, in part because one person had the vision and drive to make it happen, rather than, say, an engineering company or a group of engineers, he said.

The cooperative, which has more than 50,000 members, has connected two other similar hydroelectric projects to its network, according to company officials. This is the first in several years.

© Loren Holmes / DNA

More and more people are taking steps to generate their own renewable energy, they said. Some sell power to the power company, like some homeowners with solar panels on their roofs. Other projects like Brailey’s are much larger.

Wind and solar power projects can produce more intermittent power, affected by changes in the wind or clouds. But the Juniper Creek system will provide a predictable power supply.

Juniper Creek Hydroelectric Power Plant is a water flow system. Basically, it borrows some of the water from the stream before giving it back, without affecting downstream fishery resources like a dam would.

The water is with us for two minutes and then it goes back into the creek ,” he said.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game decided that a permit was not necessary to protect fish habitat.

Since there are no fish present, they determined it wasn’t necessary ,” Brailey said.

An inspiring and overcoming story.


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