Energy storage is essential for cost-effective integration of variable renewable energy sources to support a low-carbon grid. It is also a key enabler of a modern grid infrastructure for demand management. However, several main challenges remain for different kind of energy storage technologies in grid scale deployment. Currently, the largest source of utility-scale storage and long-duration storage in the US is pumped storage hydropower (PSH). Prospect of growth in conventional PSH faces challenges that have limited its deployment over the last three decades, including high capital costs and long deployment timelines. Batteries have high energy densities and are the primary technology of choice for small-scale energy storage. Compressed air energy storage (CAES) is another large-scale energy storage technology, but there are few plants deployed worldwide. They suffer from their low round trip efficiency (RTE) due to the use of high-pressure air compressors.
To address some of the challenges associated with these various storage technologies, the Ground-Level Integrated Diverse Energy Storage (GLIDES) is a modular PSH technology that was invented in 2015 at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It utilizes gas compression to store electric energy. GLIDES stores energy by compressing gas using a liquid piston in high-pressure vessels. In doing so the vessels act as the upper reservoir in conventional PSH. Initially, the vessels are filled with gas to a prescribed pressure. To store energy, GLIDES uses a hydraulic piston pump to pump water into the pressurized vessels. As the water volume increases inside the vessels, water acts as a hydraulic piston compressing the gas on top of it. This process can be thought of as pumping water from the lower reservoir to the higher reservoir in PSH, increasing the water head. To dispatch the stored energy, the high-head water in the vessel is discharge through a high head Pelton hydraulic turbine that is connected to an electric generator. Employing high-pressure vessels enables GLIDES to reach water heads ~10-80 times higher than conventional PSH, achieving ~40 times higher energy densities, and overcomes the geographic limitation of conventional PSH. Although its energy density is much lower than that of batteries, GLIDES holds the potential advantages of having long service life, ease of system integration and being less hazardous over batteries. GLIDES prospective scalability could make it suitable for wide range of applications from behind the meter storage in buildings to grid-scale storage. It also makes it suitable for installations in densely populated urban areas where energy storage is most needed and real estate is limited.Over the last 5 years, work has focused on increasing GLIDES’ energy density, decreasing its initial capital cost of the system, and increasing its revenue potential. Several designs were developed and prototyped to verify and demonstrate the improvement in energy density. The latest prototype achieved energy density of 1.21 kWh/m3. Our analysis showed that it could achieve up to 1.7 kWh/m3 with a mixture of air and carbon dioxide as the gas being compressed.