Frostburg funeral home unplugs Durst’s solar system expected to pay for itself in about 5 years

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Fifty-four solar panels were installed atop Durst Funeral Home in Frostburg. They are expected to provide up to 90 percent of the electricity needed for the funeral home and on-site residence.

FROSTBURG — The Durst Funeral Home was established at its current site in the Historic District on Frost Avenue in 1952. Until recently, the owners, John and Sandy Durst, could not have imagined its most recent update — 54 solar panels on the roof. But after attending a 2014 SOLAR Saturday event in Frostburg, they decided to take the plunge.
   Installed in less than four days in May, the panels are expected to provide up to 90 percent of the electricity needed for the funeral home and on-site residence — a remarkable percentage considering as many as 100 lights might be in use during a visitation period at the funeral home. In the first 30 days, the rooftop solar panel system produced a surplus of energy. 

   Although the Frostburg mayor and City Council celebrated with the Dursts in an “un-plugging” ceremony, the funeral home has not actually unplugged from the electric grid. That is because even though the solar panel system produces a surplus in the summer, it might not in the winter months when the need for electricity is as great but the sunlight is in shorter supply.
   Betsy Delozier, master mechanic and owner of BIG D Electric, First Peoples Community Federal Credit Union, City Hall and the city’s Historic District Commission all played a part in the success of the Dursts’ effort.
   Delozier was one of the installers who presented at that SOLAR Saturday event in 2014. Her company has installed numerous residential and commercial solar panel systems in the area. The process begins with initial contact, gathering specific site data, designing the proposed solar panel system and handling the paperwork for her clients. It ends, after receiving the necessary approvals, with the installation itself.
   Delozier estimates that the Durst Funeral Home solar panel system will pay for itself in roughly five years. It will be a return on investment “in 4.68 years at today’s rate,” she said.
   Delozier also pointed out that the system at Durst Funeral Home “utilizes an optimizer on each solar panel to get the maximum efficiency as well as increase safety.”
   This means that while the system of panels works as a “team,” each panel can be monitored separately for its production. And, if a panel temporarily has problems, the other panels continue to produce electricity while that panel can be identified and addressed individually.
   First Peoples is the financial partner as it underwrote 75 percent of the cost of the entire system.
   City Hall staff was involved in the general permitting process as a construction project and as staff to the Historic District Commission. Established in 1975, the commission, comprised of five appointed volunteers, meets monthly to review applications while upholding its mission “to safeguard and preserve the rich heritage of the city by protecting historic properties in the downtown and residential neighborhoods.”
   In the case of the funeral home solar panel system, approval from the commission, the first of its kind, demonstrated that preserving the past and considering current economic issues need not be in conflict with each other. Additionally, by approving this first solar panel system in the Historic District, a substantial economic investment was supported.
   The next SOLAR Saturday, which will focus on residential solar panels, is July 18 beginning at 9 a.m. at City Place in Frostburg. The event is part of the city’s continued focus on sustainability and resilience.
   The Durst Funeral Home will be one of two site focuses. Presentations will also be made by Delozier and City Hall staff.
   The event is free and open to the public with ample free parking nearby.

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Pictured at a recent “un-plugging” ceremony are, back from left, Woody Getz, Frostburg Commissioner of Public Works; Donny Carter, Commissioner of Finance; Mayor Robert Flanigan; Walter Mackay, Commissioner of Public Safety; Brian Alderton, Commissioner of Water, Parks and Recreation; and Rob Rephan, Frostburg Historic District Commission member. Front, Nicholas Durst, funeral director, holding son Brock; his wife, Jackie, holding Addison; Stephanie Durst, office manager; John and Sandra Durst, Durst Funeral Home owners; Betsy Delosier, Big D Electric; and Kathy Connelly, branch manager of Frostburg First Peoples Credit Union. 

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