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A look back: Agua Fria Generating Station

If you think the economy is growing quickly today, you should have seen the boom in Arizona in the 1950s! With the drastic population growth and demand for power rising in the second half of the 20th century, SRP began constructing a series of thermal generating stations across the Valley. 

To explain it simply, these thermal power plants, also called “steam power plants,” have turbines that convert heat to electricity. 

Thermal power stations are recognizable by their units, which appear as cylinders that are as tall as multistory buildings and wrapped in external staircases for access points.  

Powering for a growing population

The first thermal power station was Kyrene Generating Station, with units 1 and 2 completed in 1952 and 1954. Construction on Agua Fria Generating Station, sited on 80 acres of land (about the area of a large shopping mall) in Peoria at Northern and 75th avenues, began shortly thereafter in 1955. At the time, this area was nothing but agricultural fields surrounded by empty desert landscape.  

Agua Fria Generating Station’s first two units were formally dedicated on Feb. 7, 1958, with over 250 guests in attendance. The two units added over 200,000 kilowatts (kW) of power to the system, with the promise of “guaranteeing your electrical future.” Unit 3 was completed in 1961, adding another 168,000 kW and bringing SRP’s total generating capacity to over 600,000 kW. Following the completion of Unit 3, Agua Fria Generating Station was considered Arizona’s most efficient and modern power plant. 

Reliable backup generation

Today, the Agua Fria Generating Station is a multifaceted energy center that hosts different types of power generation resources, including natural gas steam units, fast-ramping flexible turbines, battery storage and a small solar array. Resources at this site are essential for SRP to deliver reliable electricity on the hottest summer days, helping ensure the safety of families in the Valley. 

The plant has eight generation units in total: three conventional steam generation units and five combustion turbine generators which include the two Aero natural gas turbines. The total capacity of Agua Fria, 722 megawatts (MW), is enough to power more than 160,000 average-sized homes. 

The site also has a 200 kW solar generating field and is adjacent to SRP’s Bolster Substation Battery System, a 25 MW battery storage facility and the largest stand-alone battery operating on SRP’s power system. The area around the site has grown immensely with the construction of a large highway, bringing businesses and shops to the surrounding area. 

Historical power sources

This naturally occurring hydropower source was built in 1902 and is one of the Valley’s hidden gems today. 

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