Construction on the power station began on March 1929 and was completed in a record-setting 8 months in November 1929.
An average of 600 men were employed during construction and were under the supervision of Mr. R.G. Taber.
The power station building, equipment, feeder lines and substations cost $5 million to build in 1929.
The power station was built in what was then called El Paso’s upper valley, now Sunland Park, New Mexico. The name was befitting of the location of its construction since the plant was built on the border of the Rio Grande River on what had been thought to be the Texas side. As a result of a meandering river and eventual legislation in the United States Congress, El Paso Electric’s property where the power station is sited was deeded to New Mexico.
More than 200 citizens of El Paso, Juarez, Mexico and the valleys were guests of El Paso Electric at a dinner on November 26, 1929 when the Rio Grande Power Station was placed in operation for the first time. The Honorable R.E. Thomason, Mayor of El Paso, pressed the button that placed the facilities of the new power station at the service of the people in this community. Dinner was served in the giant turbine room.
In 1941, auxiliary boiler 1B was added to meet the steam requirements of units 1, 2, and 3.
On January 1, 1950, addition of the front office building was completed.
The power station’s cooling water medium was converted from direct intake from the canal to well water systems and cooling towers in 1953.
The method of producing distilled water was changed from Evaporators to a Reverse Osmosis System in 1981.
The power station has expanded to include 8 generating units. Units were added to the power station the following years: 1929 – Units 1 & 2: 19 and 25 MWs, General Electric and Westinghouse Turbine-Generators 1941 – Unit 3: 20 MWs, General Electric Turbine-Generator 1948 – Unit 4: 36 MWs, Westinghouse Turbine-Generator 1953 – Unit 5: 34 MWs, General Electric Turbine-Generator 1957 – Unit 6: 50 MWs, Westinghouse Turbine-Generator 1958 – Unit 7: 50 MWs, General Electric Turbine-Generator 1972 – Unit 8: 150 MWs, Westinghouse Turbine-Generator 2013 – Unit 9: 150 MWs, General Electric Aeroderivative Technology
Today, units 6, 7, 8 are operational and operate primarily on natural gas, but can also operate on fuel oil.. The other units were retired in 1988.
Unit 9 was added in 2013. It utilizes state-of-the art jet-engine technology, is highly efficient in its use of natural gas fuel, and uses less than one-third the water per megawatt than conventional steam units.
The Rio Grande Power Station has the capacity to generate 340 MW of electricity.