SOMAH helps deliver financial and environmental benefits to your tenants

The Solar on Multifamily Affordable Housing (SOMAH) program provides financial incentives to substantially offset the cost of a solar PV system for your multifamily building. Designed to maximize community benefits, the program requires that the majority of the system directly powers tenant meters, but also provides incentives for common area loads. More than 3,500 properties across the state encompassing nearly 255,000 individual households qualify for incentives under the program.

Helps save on energy costs

Solar PV can reduce and stabilize energy costs for your multifamily building. The SOMAH program provides incentives to substantially reduce the cost of an installation and includes a suite of no-cost technical assistance services to make the process of going solar easier for you.

Provides financial benefits to your tenants

Solar PV systems installed through the SOMAH program must allocate a minimum of 51% of the energy produced to tenant meters through virtual net energy metering (VNEM). Tenants will receive credits on their electricity bills that will help them live more affordably.

Supports economic growth

With a target of 300 megawatts (MW) of solar PV installed by 2030, the SOMAH program will boost the local solar economy, and grow the job market. In addition, the program’s job training requirements will create career development opportunities for your tenants and community.

Supports environmental justice

SOMAH supports environmental justice by serving affordable housing tenants in disadvantaged communities across California, providing them with clean energy and lower utility bills as well as paid job training opportunities.

Supports a healthy California

California has an ambitious goal of 100% carbon-free energy by 2045. The SOMAH program will help you and your community reduce air pollution and be a part of the clean energy transition.

Multifamily affordable housing property owner and SOMAH contractors

To be eligible for a SOMAH incentive, a property must:

  • Have at least five units
  • Be deed-restricted low-income residential housing
  • Satisfy one of the following
    • 80% of property residents have incomes at or below 60% of the area median income (AMI)
    • Property is located in a defined disadvantaged community (DAC) that scores in the top 25% of census tracts statewide in the CalEnviroScreen
  • Be an existing building or retrofit (with Certificate of Occupancy)
  • Have separately metered units
  • Be a utility or community choice aggregator (CCA) customer (with VNEM) in the Pacific Gas and Electric, Southern California Edison, San Diego Gas & Electric, PacifiCorp or Liberty Utilities territories

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Solar panels on affordable properties

In addition to the energy efficiency requirements for SOMAH, the SOMAH Program Administrator encourages owners to integrate energy efficiency upgrades through a number of different statewide programs. Owners who opt in for upfront technical assistance can work with their assigned energy project manager, who will help them explore different energy efficiency opportunities available and directly refer them to programs. Otherwise, owners can use standard technical assistance to request information on available energy efficiency programs.

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While SOMAH incentives cover 100% of the tenant serving load, the program only covers a portion of the cost for the common area system, which may leave some gaps in fully funding the solar project.

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The SOMAH program provides fixed, upfront, capacity-based incentives for qualifying solar PV systems. The incentive is paid based on verified solar energy system characteristics such as location, system size, shading and orientation. The amount of the incentive depends on the size of the installed system, the energy percentage split between tenant and common area serving-load and the other funding resources that the project may leverage, such as the federal investment tax credit (ITC) and low-income housing tax credits (LIHTC).

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The SOMAH program provides a suite of no-cost services to make it easier for you to go solar!

  • Upfront technical assistance (TA) to help you evaluate the benefits of solar for your property, find a contractor and submit an application
  • Standard technical assistance to support you throughout the application process with anything from gap financing to post-installation support
  • Tenant education resources that are available for download and a hotline for your tenants to get answers to their questions
  • The SOMAH Tenant Education Services pilot project helps host customers reach their tenant education requirements after the Proof of Project Milestone.

Solar energy meters on multifamily affordable housing

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    Upfront TA track
    Technical assistance (TA)

    Complete and submit the technical assistance interest form

  •  
    Technical assistance approved

    Reservation request due in three months

  •  
    Standard TA track
    Reservation request

    Complete and submit reservation request package and application deposit

  •  
    Reservation approved

    Energy efficiency compliance milestone due in 60 days

  •  
    Demonstrate energy efficiency compliance

    Complete and submit the energy efficiency compliance milestone

  •  
    Energy efficiency compliance milestone approve

    Proof of project milestone due in 180 days

  •  
    Demonstrate project progress

    Complete and submit proof of project milestone

  •  
    Proof of project milestone approved

    Incentive claim due 18 months from reservation approval

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    Install PV system
     

The SOMAH program provides an eligible contractor database to help you locate a qualified, program-approved contractor. To facilitate your selection, we’ve created an online contractor bidding tool you can use to obtain competitive quotes from eligible local contractors. Property owners participating in upfront technical assistance are required to obtain at least three bids. Technical assistance in evaluating bids is available to all SOMAH participants.

Eligible Contractor Database

SOMAH eligible contractors installing solar PV panels

The SOMAH program was designed to maximize benefits to affordable housing residents. Participating properties are required to share important informational materials with tenants to ensure they understand the project and get full benefits from it. Required materials include:

  • What to expect with solar
  • How to understand your new utility bill
  • How best to maximize your energy savings

These materials, along with other educational resources and tips for tenant education, are available in the tenant education toolkit.

Multifamily affordable housing tenants learning about SOMAH

While new construction buildings are ineligible for SOMAH, property owners can plan ahead to ensure their building is ready for a solar installation after the building receives a certificate of occupancy.
Tips for getting solar ready:

  • Maximize open roof space for a sufficient solar zone
  • Minimize shading and equipment on the rooftop
  • Consult a contractor to correctly estimate future system size
  • Consult local zoning ordinances that may affect future installations

Questions about becoming solar ready? SOMAH’s free technical assistance is available to help!

Apply for Technical Assistance