What is the cheapest new alternative energy?

Is there anything out there that could save you from high gas prices? See more green science pictures.

There's no doubt about it: The environmental movement is coming of age. From solar-powered watches and cars that run on salt water to naturally derived cleaning sprays and curbside recycling, lots of people are going green. Nevertheless, when it comes to high-ticket items, like the cars we drive and how we power our homes, the steep costs of alternative energy sometimes keep us from making the greenest choices.

Scientists, researchers and advocates for green technologies are working hard to bring down these costs. Solar power has been one of the most expensive sources of alternative energy, but recent research using magnetic fields to collect solar energy without the need for expensive photovoltaic cells could dramatically reduce its costs in the future. Wind farms are another promising renewable energy resource; however, collecting and conveying the power of the wind presents an expensive obstacle. Geothermal power (energy from the heat found inside the earth's crust) seems like the perfect way to cheap, infinitely renewable power -- except for the dangerous earthquakes that might occur as a result of collecting the Earth's steam.

Technologies for harvesting and storing alternative energy are all evolving so quickly that it's difficult to say which new alternative energy source is the cheapest. Today's promising technology may be surpassed by something even greener tomorrow. Furthermore, regional characteristics have a huge effect on the cost of alternative energies, making resources like solar power cheaper in the sun-drenched desert than it is in the cloudy Northwest. Also, interesting new sources of energy, including underwater vibration and sewer biogas, may one day prove to be cheap sources of green energy. However, these haven't been tested or implemented widely enough to be cost-competitive. Still other alternative energies like biodiesel aren't strictly renewable, but the fact that we can use them in existing vehicle fleets makes them a viable, if not exactly dirt cheap, alternative energy option in the short term.

In conclusion, today's impractical and costly alternative power technology may well be tomorrow's energy mainstay. Scientists are exploring tons of alternative energy avenues, so cheap new alternative energy could be right around the corner. Find related articles and lots more information on the next page.

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  • Institute for Energy Research. "Levilized Cost of New Electricity Generating Technologies." Feb. 1, 2011. (April 22, 2011) http://www.instituteforenergyresearch.org/2009/05/12/levelized-cost-of-new-generating-technologies/
  • Gerson Lehrman Group. "Windy Energy Obstacles and Potential." Jan. 22, 2009. (April 22, 2011) http://www.glgroup.com/News/Wind-Energy-Obstacles-and-Potential-31784.html
  • Glanz, James. "Geothermal Power." New York Times. Dec. 11, 2009. (April 22, 2011) http://topics.nytimes.com/top/news/business/energy-environment/geothermal-power/index.html?scp=2&sq=geothermal%20energy&st=cse
  • Grant, Andrew. "The Weirdest New Source of Alternative Energy: Underwater Vibrations." DiscoverMagazine.com. Feb. 25, 2009. (April 22, 2011) http://discovermagazine.com/2009/mar/25-weirdest-new-source-alternative-energy-underwater-vibrations
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