Solar panels

Solar panels that debuted on top of the Glendale Community College parking structure in 2008 produce energy and shade. (Roger Wilson/Staff photographer / July 22, 2013)

After years of grappling with budget cuts, Glendale Community College is poised to invest millions of dollars in campus infrastructure improvements.

The focus of about $2.3 million in spending planned for later this year will be to make the campus more energy efficient, resulting in six-figure annual savings to the college's general fund, Executive Vice President Ron Nakasone said.

The work plan is also part of a strategy to leverage new state funding for energy conservation to address a $7-million backlog of deferred maintenance projects, Facilities Director Nelson Oliveira said.

In addition to a one-time $400,000 boost in state funding for general maintenance work this fiscal year, Nakasone said Glendale Community College expects to receive nearly $3.2 million in energy conservation funding over the next five years through Proposition 39, a corporate tax adjustment approved by California voters last year.

The good news for Glendale, Oliveira said, is that more than half the maintenance backlog on campus is work that could qualify for state conservation funds.

"It's one shot, two rabbits. Renovate your infrastructure and at the same time, you are saving energy," he said.

The upgrades, Oliveira added, will help Glendale Community College avoid situations like the two power outages that closed the campus on Nov. 30 and Dec. 5, requiring $150,000 in repairs.

Another incentive is to head off impacts of a Glendale Water & Power plan to raise electricity rates by 26% over the next five years.

The college's annual power bill is about $1.4 million, Nakasone said. If the college cannot reduce its energy consumption, the rate hike would increase that bill to nearly $1.8 million.

The $2.3-million energy conservation project would include lighting, temperature control and power-delivery upgrades, and goes before the college's board of trustees for a vote in August.

An energy-use survey conducted by the Irvine-based engineering and construction firm McKinstry, which would also be tapped to do the work, predicts $165,000 in annual energy savings.

McKinstry identified an additional $5.4 million in potential upgrades that would save an extra $151,000 in annual power costs, but Nakasone said college officials would evaluate the success of the initial contract before considering more work.

Glendale Community College trustee Vahe Peroomian said the campus fell behind on maintenance as funds were directed to keeping classes open during lean budget years.

"If you give someone a choice of offering more classes or doing maintenance, 99 out of 100 people would choose more classes," Peroomian said.

But now that things are looking up, maintenance "should be an integral part of the budget that we don't touch unless it's a dire emergency," he said.

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Follow Joe Piasecki on Twitter: @JoePiasecki.

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