A house here, a small business there, a few panels on a carport or set up in a side yard. Residential and small-business solar power is becoming hard to miss in this area.

The Massachusetts Clean Energy Center announced Wednesday that Springfield and Longmeadow are the latest communities picked to take part in a 7-year-old state program called Solarize Mass. Newburyport was one of the first in the program, which so far has included 69 cities and towns. In fact, the city is one of six communities – including Sudbury, Wayland, Lincoln, Provincetown and Wellfleet – to participate in the program twice. Solarize Mass helps communities use a competitive bidding process to pick solar panel installers that have “the most attractive pricing, outreach and community education packages,” according to the Clean Energy Center.

This program is proving to be a great way to educate the public about the benefits of solar power to generate electricity in homes and small businesses, while helping get solar panels installed – and visible – so residents can see how this renewable power option is spreading. It’s also an important piece of the state’s efforts to reduce carbon emissions and spread the gospel of renewable energy. 

State House News Service pointed out that the Mass. Sierra Club and environmental group 350 Mass Action endorsed Democrat Jay Gonzalez in the recent governor’s race because of his commitment to clean energy. Gov. Charlie Baker was re-elected for another four-year term, of course, and it’s likely environmentalists will be pushing for the Legislature and governor to speed up programs like Solarize Mass and to approve more money to help spur residential solar development. 

The beauty of this type of renewable energy program is that it doesn’t entail billions of dollars of investment and years of licensing delays, which is what slows the process for approving a new power plant. It allows for interested homeowners and business owners to get into a program – assuming their locations and finances fit the solar panel concept – that, in the long run, helps us all by lowering carbon emissions that come from traditional fossil fuel power plants. It might be a stretch, but it could be said that we all can breathe a little easier when we see solar panels on a local rooftop.