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World’s smallest 3D printed Pelton buckets used in the GLIDES lab-scale prototype.
World’s smallest 3D printed Pelton buckets used in the GLIDES lab-scale prototype.
(Source: ORNL)

Project Summary

Electricity storage is essential for the cost-effective expansion of variable renewable energy to support a low-carbon grid. It is also a key enabler of a modern transactive grid infrastructure for load management. The current electricity storage market uses various conventional technologies at different market scales. Batteries are the primary technology of choice for small-scale electricity storage; however, they suffer from low market penetration because of their high cost. Utility-scale storage is provided almost exclusively by pumped storage hydropower (PSH), but future growth in conventional PSH faces significant market and regulatory challenges. Compressed air energy storage (CAES) is another large-scale/capacity storage technology. Conventional CAES suffers from low round trip efficiency (approximately 40%–50%) because of significant energy losses in gas compressors and turbines, and it can only be located in areas with suitable geology to allow for storage reservoirs. While there are many conventional technologies available for electricity storage, each of them have their own drawbacks.


Oak Ridge National Laboratory (ORNL) is exploring the economics of a modular PSH (mPSH) technology with the potential to supplant battery storage due to its lower costs, longer lifetime, and faster deployment. The overall goal of this project is to fill the technology gap between expensive, small-scale battery technologies and large, grid-scale PSH systems by introducing a cost-effective, modular, scalable, and flexible storage system with the capability to provide a broad range of ancillary services. ORNL is working to quantify the value proposition and prioritize future research directions for the newly invented Ground-Level Integrated Diverse Energy Storage (GLIDES) mPSH technology.

Project Snapshot
Project TitleGround-Level Integrated Diverse Energy Storage (GLIDES)
AwardeeOak Ridge National Laboratory
Awardee HQ LocationTennessee
DOE Funding Amount$1,100,000
Program AreaPSH and Grid Reliability
Recipient TypeLaboratory
Award TypeAnnual Operating Plan
Year Awarded2017
Work LocationsCalifornia, Tennessee
Congressional District(s)CA-43, TN-2, TN-3

What You Need to Know


Energy storage is becoming an increasingly important component of the electric grid. Energy storage can be used to provide essential grid services and balance fluctuations in generation from variable renewables, such as wind and solar. While PSH comprises 97% of the United States’ utility-scale storage, high capital costs and long development timelines, among other factors, have limited its deployment over the last three decades. The GLIDES system has the potential to significantly reduce cost and deployment timeframes, allowing it to be competitive in the energy storage market.

  • Potential to mitigate many of the market and regulatory barriers faced by large PSH because of the technology’s modular, energy-dense, scalable, and environmentally benign design.
  • Enable early-stage research and development efforts performed of mPSH and introduce new opportunities to the energy storage community.
  • Reduce the cost of energy storage while maintaining a higher roundtrip efficiency and longer lifecycles than battery technologies.
  • Conduct a detailed cost analysis of commercial-scale systems to illustrate tradeoffs between higher energy density and lower cost.
  • Provide an accurate value proposition of newly invented GLIDES for mPSH applications.
  • Evaluate the strengths and shortcomings of the proposed technology and establish the path for further improvements.
  • Document and communicate deliverables by building prototypes that showcase the ideas, publishing journal and conference publications, and presenting at various conferences.

Project Partners

Tennessee Valley Authority
Utility partner for evaluating GLIDES at the distribution scale
University of Tennessee
University partner for modeling assistance
SEITec, Inc.
Engineering design

About the Water Power Technologies Office

The U.S. Department of Energy's Water Power Technologies Office enables research, development, and testing of emerging technologies to advance marine energy as well as next-generation hydropower and pumped-storage systems for a flexible, reliable grid.