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.

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
    • Property is located on federally recognized tribal land or land otherwise recognized as under tribal control by CalEPA
  • 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

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

    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

    Install PV system

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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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