Green grad: Since 1970s, he's been Mr. Clean on energy

David MuenchDavid Muench knows he may just be one of the most disliked men in Calumet County.

That’s OK with him, though. The class of ’72 grad (Regional Analysis) is out there trying to save the environment, roughly 1.6 megawatts at a time.

(This story appeared in the April 2009 issue of the Inside UW-Green Bay alumni magazine.)

Muench is a community outreach specialist for Ecoenergy, a company that facilitates the installation of clean-energy wind turbines. It’s his job to advocate for the construction of turbines on the windiest plateaus and ridges of Northeastern Wisconsin. Most recently, that’s been in Calumet County on the east side of Lake Winnebago.

“We want to have clean energy,” Muench says of what he says should be a national and global goal. “We should want to be independent of foreign sources of energy.”

It’s sometimes a thankless job going into town halls and community centers, trying to convince people that wind energy is ideal for powering the future. There’s always a contingent of neighbors who tell him, essentially, “Great, but not in my backyard.”

“I’m old enough now to know I can’t win every one,” he says of his battles at the public hearings required to approve wind farms. “You pick your battles. There are some that you’re not going to convince.”

Muench started getting interested in environmental protection during his time at UW-Green Bay, starting first with land use issues. “My awareness was raised in those early years,” he recalls. “I thought, ‘how can I raise awareness when I leave here?’”

He started as an energy planner for the Bay-Lake Regional Planning Commission in the early and mid-1970s, the first heyday of greener thinking.

“At that time, we had the oil embargo. The federal government put a lot of money into energy planning — car conservation and fuel mileage, and a lot into alternative energy,” Muench says.

After receiving a master’s from UW-Green Bay in 1979, Muench joined the UW Extension office as a community development educator. He taught energy conservation through the ’80s, when green momentum slowed as oil prices dropped.

“That was unfortunate because we were on a roll,” Muench says. “If we kept going the way we were going with energy conservation, and better gas mileage and alternative energy, 25 years later we’d have been totally independent, probably.

“Life would have been easier. But we (society) took the easy route and people got away from energy conservation. The focus shifted away.”

The focus is back, though, and Muench loves being part of the latest green revolution, even if it means persuading “NIMBY” neighbors that wind farms will benefit the environment.

“I know that in the big picture, the benefits far outweigh the negatives about it,” Muench said. “I can still sleep at night.”