Windpower is making encouraging gains in the Northwest, thanks most recently to private sector investment from Northwest utilities.

But it’s still a bit player. It now provides little more than 1 percent of electricity in the Northwest states. It’s growing pretty fast, but not as fast as its competitors. Since 2000, in actual electrical output—that is, adjusting for the fact that the wind doesn’t always blow—Cascadia has installed 17 times as much new natural gas-fired generating capacity as new wind mills.

And natural gas extraction comes at a substantial cost to ecosystems just outside Cascadia in Alberta and Wyoming. The Wyoming situation is detailed in yesterday’s Seattle Times as part of its valuable new series on the environment under the Bush administration.