Leslie Ames, Sustainable to the Core

July 4, 2016

Leslie kayaking Grand CanyonHer laid back style, love of nature and athletic prowess energize her multiple passions that naturally unfolded for this South Lake Tahoe native.

From white water kayaking, skiing, mountain biking, sailing, hiking or running her solar energy business, Leslie Ames personifies a local green business that was inspired by her roots.

Meet Leslie Ames, South Shore native and co-owner of Tahoe Solar Designs.

Taking advantage of every outdoor activity while growing up in South Lake Tahoe, Leslie had a strong desire to help preserve the beautiful environment that was her playground. It was a natural extension of her lifestyle and her deep connection to her home town.  In fact, her grandfather constructed the building that is now Alpina Café on Emerald Bay Road.  Luckily the remodel 15 years ago retained the charm of this historic Tahoe cabin which provides many fond memories for Leslie.

Leslie backcountry skiing TahoeWhile solar energy was still in its infancy, Leslie was attending UC Santa Barbara where she received a degree in geology that led to a position with FEMA which lasted for over a decade.  At the same time, Leslie also taught geology classes at Lake Tahoe Community College which she still teaches today along with telemark skiing classes and a solar energy course.

When solar energy took a big leap in 2001, so did Leslie. Inverter technology finally caught up with computers to make a more efficient system, and legislation was passed in California and Nevada promoting solar distributed energy to provide consumers with solar energy rebate incentives.

Leslie had always been mystified by the technology behind renewable energy and its magical simplicity.  “The technology is magic. The sun hits this panel and makes energy.” says Leslie.  Just as she mastered white water kayaking and skiing, Leslie jumped right in and started to learn everything she could about solar electricity and rebate incentives.  Along with her husband Bret Alexander, a carpenter and builder who shared similar passions, they launched Tahoe Solar Designs in 2001. The timing was perfect and set the stage for their future success.

CS Panels MtnsWith the help of the rebate incentives, Tahoe Solar Designs has been busy designing and installing solar electricity systems for their Nevada clients. (Rebates are only available on the Nevada side of the Tahoe basin at this time.)  Solar hot water systems are also high in demand since they save a lot of energy and money.

With the influx of green building in the region, Leslie and Bret have installed solar energy systems in some of the new homes built in the Angora Fire area. And, they recently received the 1st USDA Rural Development Grant for a Renewable Energy Project in Nevada.  The grant was used to install a 10kw solar electricity system for Comstock Seed in Gardnerville (see picture above) which specializes in native seed acquisition, reclamation and drought tolerant grass, shrubs and wildflowers.

Steidtmann Lake TahoeAs one of the earliest solar energy businesses in the basin that walks the talk, Tahoe Solar Designs holds an annual Solar Tour the first Saturday in October in South Lake Tahoe. (Their house is on the tour.)

To learn more and to see photos of their installations, please visit www.tahoesolardesigns.com or call Leslie and Bret at (530) 542-0780.