The Terra Watt Prize is designed to provide an open, transparent, and fair process for all participants. We encourage you to read the following requirements carefully, so you understand the level of effort required in this competition. 

Please note that we are seeking only those applicants who can deliver a proposal that aligns with our SCORING CRITERIA. Also, you can learn more about the JUDGES responsible for scoring your application before applying. Startups and public agencies are precluded from participation. Applicants need to exhibit a clear track record of demonstrating their technical approach, even if that record only includes one or two prior implementations of their solution.

You must REGISTER before submitting your application. If you have any questions, you may register and join our discussion forums to seek clarification.

There are four sections in the application:

Section A:  Quick Facts (required)

This section should include approximately two pages of narrative text and some basic facts about your organization. We want to know who you are, where you are, how you are structured, and other basic information. In addition to these facts, we ask you to provide a description of any partnerships in 500 words or less (two manuscript pages).

Section B:  Proposed Project (required)

This section should include no more than 10  pages of narrative text and detailed financials for a proposed project. This section also requires you to deliver descriptions of the village where you intend to implement your solution. As you consider this section, remember that the National Geographic Society intends to provide grants of $125,000 each to two applicants to implement their proposed projects. It is critical that you make a case for how your proposed project not only meets but also exceeds the minimum requirements, so that you receive the highest possible scores from the judges.

Section C:  Business Plan (required)

This section should include no more than five pages of narrative text and a series of financial statements, which will likely require considerable effort to develop, including projections over a four- to five-year period. It is critical that you describe your organization’s strategy, goals, and plans for growth, so that you distinguish yourself as both a potential grantee and credible candidate for investment. Our judges include seasoned experts who may consider each applicant as a potential investment opportunity.

Section D:  Video Pitch (recommended)

This section allows you to make a personal presentation to the judges. It is optional but recommended.

Please read all of the following application requirements before deciding whether to participate.


The following information is required to capture a basic understanding of your organization.


Submit up to 100 characters
Provide the legal name of your organization. If you are operating under one or more alternate names, provide one name that is both officially registered as part of your legal identity and commonly used.
Provide the name and title of a single point of contact for the purposes of communicating with your team. The person should be the most senior individual responsible for overseeing the application requirements.
Provide the phone number(s) and email address(es) of your designated point of contact. You may provide alternate contact information if it is a direct means for reaching the designated point of contact.
WHERE ARE YOU? (required)
Provide the mailing address for your headquarters or main point of contact.

Indicate the legal structure of your organization. You may be organized as either for-profit or non-profit. Public government agencies are precluded from applying. If you are a for-profit company within your country of origin, please provide your legally recognized structure (e.g., Sole Proprietorship, Limited Liability Corporation, Pty. Ltd., Pvt. Ltd., Partnership, Guarantee Company, etc.).
Provide the year in which your organization was legally established; if your organization has been reorganized or restructured, only offer the most recent date of instatement.
If you have agreed to partner with one or more organizations, list each partner organization, one point of contact for each partner organization (name/title), and contact information for each point of contact (phone/email). Use the same requirements as those to describe your own organization (above). Describe the structure of your partnership with each other organization, such as the role of each and any specific decision-making control between the parties. Emphasize the strengths of those partners and why they have been included along with your organization. Note that all other elements of the application assume that your organization is the controlling authority, that any financial commitments within one or more partnerships are disclosed, and that those obligations are incorporated as part of your own financial and operational considerations. Please provide this information in 500 words or less.

The National Geographic Society will select two project proposals to receive $125,000 (USD) each. Those funds are intended to finance a specific project that will be outlined in this section of the application. Judges will evaluate your project proposal based on four traits or evaluation criteria: feasibility, impact, sustainability, and scalability (see SCORING RUBRIC). The subsequent sections list the minimum project parameters. Applicants will compete by exceeding the minimum requirements. Please read all of the sections before starting. Also, please note that you will be asked later to describe your organization’s larger business plan. We realize that many applicants are developing multiple and/or concurrent projects, so that their organization can scale strategically. However, for this section, we want you to showcase one discrete proposed project and how you plan to implement it.


The following sections ask you to describe the village where you intend to launch the project. “Village” can be used to identify a community or a collection of communities commonly recognized throughout the region. The village cannot be connected to the grid, and its residents should have only limited access to electricity. It is permissible that up to 5 percent of households in the village may have some access to electricity (beyond solar lanterns or other small devices that may offer the capacity to charge a light and/or cell phone). We seek to support projects in locations where reliable services are currently absent or extremely limited. There should not be current plans from a separate business, government, or non-governmental entity to implement an energy access program in the village. By your submitting this application, our assumption is that you have already explored and researched the selected site or that you are prepared to partner with another organization that has a deep understanding of local leadership and conditions. Judges will value project proposals with strong site awareness. The National Geographic Society retains discretion to visit the site during the application process or thereafter.

SITE LOCATION (required)
Provide the name of the country, region of the country, and village where you have selected your site.
Enter the latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of the geographic location of your selected site in decimal degrees format (not degree-minute-seconds format). For example, Machu Picchu, located at 13° 09' 00" S, 072° 30' 28" W, would be entered as -13.15 (latitude) and -72.5078 (longitude). To help identify your coordinates, visit: Be sure to enter North and East coordinates as positive values, and South and West coordinates as negative values. Note that the default on this website is a “Degree/Minute/Second” format. You will need to adjust it to “Decimal” format to provide the correct answer.
In 250 words or less, provide a description of the selected village. Describe the local population’s current practice for generating light, charging cell phones, cooking, and meeting other energy needs. What are the local challenges for implementing your proposed solution? In other words, describe the problem that you are solving. Take this opportunity to highlight your specific relationship with the villagers. Provide evidence of familiarity with the site to validate claims. To achieve success, you must understand the villagers’ needs, just as any service provider must understand its customers.

There are many technical approaches for introducing electricity to villages in off-grid locations. Judges will assess your technical approach through our screening process on the merits of feasibility, impact, sustainability, and scalability (see SCORING RUBRIC). With those criteria in mind, some applicants may exceed baseline expectations in one category (e.g., number of households), while others may excel in other categories (e.g., durability). In every case, we encourage applicants to compete by exceeding the minimum requirements.

In 250 words or less, describe the technology and supporting infrastructure that you plan to implement. If your technology requires component parts that warrant separate explanations, please focus on the elements that represent the most innovative aspects of your technical approach. “Innovative” includes the use of existing technologies in a new configuration or improved application, or it can mean the introduction of entirely new technologies. While innovation is valued, judges will also assess whether your technology offers a proven or stable application.
In 100 words or less, indicate the likely temporary disruption in electricity access for each deployment of the technology in a year (measured in days or months). If your technical approach operates through a distributed network of independently operating systems (e.g., solar home systems), then provide the likely level of disruption for an average unit in a typical year (again, in days or months). Substantiate claims with brief supporting data.
In 100 words or less, describe the likely expiration of the technology or essential component parts. For example, if your system includes energy storage (e.g., batteries), describe those batteries and their typical lifespan. If your technology requires other supporting infrastructure, indicate the typical lifespan of the most essential parts. Judges are instructed to look for explanations identified during prior deployments of the technology (i.e., experience drawn from real-world conditions). It is in your interest to disclose any weaknesses of the technology. You will have opportunities to explain how those challenges are addressed later.
You must supply a sufficient amount of electricity to power three or more light bulbs and one cell phone charger to at least 50 households in the village. These are the minimum requirements. Proposals that exceed minimum requirements will score higher, as long as the plan is feasible.

Provide the total number of households in the village. If the figure is unavailable, estimate the total population and divide by 5.

Provide the number of households with access to electricity in the village (i.e., diesel generators, etc.).

Provide the total number of households that you plan to serve.

In 150 words or less, describe the energy services that your electricity will provide. List the number of light bulbs and cell phones that will be powered or charged per household and any other household energy services. In addition, you are encouraged (but not required) to offer energy services that benefit the larger community, such as cold storage for health clinics, milling and grinding for agricultural crops, street lighting or water pumping for community infrastructure, etc., so long as those services fit within your business plan and can be accounted for as a sustainable factor in your long-term growth strategy. If you are offering community access, explain and estimate the number of customers and/or beneficiaries.
HOUSEHOLD & COMMUNITY USAGE Continued (required)
In 200 words or less, please quantify: (1) the power (watts) and energy (watt-hours per day) available to be supplied to each household; and, (2) for how many hours of access it will be supplied per day. Applicants will compete by maximizing the utility of their power or energy service, which requires delivering electricity where and when most needed. Recall that you are required to supply a sufficient amount of electricity to power three or more light bulbs and one cell phone charger for each household.
In 250 words or less, estimate the total amount of time needed to install your fully operational system. If your deployment strategy requires a phased approach, briefly name each phase and offer the amount of time required to complete each phase. If phases overlap, indicate that. If your implementation plan includes the deployment of multiple units, indicate the amount of time required to deploy each unit and then indicate the total amount of time required to implement the total number of proposed units. Clearly identify the total amount of time required to deliver the fully operational system, as proposed.
In 150 words or less, describe the impact that your proposed project will have on the local environment. Judges will reward solutions that produce the least amount of pollution. However, we recognize the value of non-renewable energy sources for back-up systems, such as diesel generators. Make your case for how your proposed technology includes a clean, reliable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly solution.
SERVICE & SUPPORT (required)
In 150 words or less, describe your plan to service and support the proposed project after implementation. Identify how any inherent weaknesses of the technology are addressed, explain who will service the technology, what is needed to deliver the services or support, how service or support will be implemented, accessibility of spare parts and/or necessary technicians, and to what extent service or support will be available. Emphasize your understanding of how service and support plans consider local consumer needs.
This section focuses on the initial costs, projected revenue, and ongoing expenses for your proposed project. Focus only on one project in this section, even when some capital requirements or supportive resources may come from elsewhere. Our assessment of your project will be based on the scoring criteria, and we are looking for project proposals that offer an efficient use of capital. Units of currency should be calculated in U.S. dollars (USD).

What is the total cost to implement the proposed project in the first year? This includes capital expenditures (e.g., equipment) and operational expenditures (e.g., labor) during the first year. Note that investors seek models that require manageable capital expenditures. Please list each cost category in the following table and clarify whether each cost category is a capital expenditure or an operational expenditure in the line item description(s). Then, provide notes for the cost categories, if they require further explanation.



Indicate the amount of capital secured (to date) to implement the project. You may enter the source of the secured funding in the line item descriptions. For example, in many cases, projects are able to include partial funding through grants to offset capital costs or to serve as risk guarantees; indicate those grant funds and sources below. Otherwise, please describe all additional sources of funds, including any debt investment. Also, indicate any outstanding capital required to implement the project. Identify this amount by entering OUTSTANDING CAPITAL in the last line item description. Since the National Geographic Society seeks to provide grants of $125,000 to the two best applicants, offering an OUTSTANDING CAPITAL requirement of $125,000 is sufficient. If you require more than $125,000 of OUSTANDING CAPITAL, then you must explain later how those funds will be secured before National Geographic can consider your application feasible.



Map the anticipated gross revenue that the project will yield over a three-year time horizon. You are only asked to list the financial returns; later, you will have the opportunity to describe any assumptions used to generate your financial model.



For Years 2 and 3, please project the annual operating and maintenance costs of the project. Year 1’s costs should already be included in the first table. Costs in this table should include direct expenses related to service and support, as well as any other anticipated ongoing costs. You may include notes to clarify any issues that are not clearly labeled.

We understand that some projects may require more than three years to break even or to show profitability. Therefore, we are offering this optional section so that you can describe a clear pathway to success after the third year. For example, sustained income streams may accrue over a longer period of time. Customer financing of your system(s) may also require creative models and/or considerable efforts beyond the third year. You are welcome to describe your plan to finance the project or to meet investors’ expectations beyond the third year by offering an explanation here, in 250 words or less.
In 250 words or less, describe the most salient threats to the proposed project and your solutions to each. Please address (at a minimum) any assumptions regarding cost and revenue projections and how you intend to manage such risk(s). If supply chain challenges are apparent, or if cost projections rely on variable factors, describe those issues and your plan for addressing them. Other risks may include the availability of talent or human resources, local conditions or environmental factors, and technical barriers. Judges will assess how clearly you have identified the most important threats, your understanding of them, and any proposed solutions.

You have illustrated your project proposal. Now, you are asked to describe your organization’s larger business plan. The purpose of this section is to communicate a long-term vision and explain both sustainable and scalable operations. Whereas your proposed project may describe one demonstration of your technical approach for reaching more than 50 households, you have this opportunity to explain how you plan to reach a much larger base of customers and/or beneficiaries in order to attain profitability. As you describe a strong plan for growth, offer a realistic estimate of the resource requirements to meet those expectations.

MANAGEMENT (required)
In 250 words or less, provide the name/title of each senior executive responsible for the growth of the organization. Include a brief biographical statement for each of the top three executives. You may also list the name and credentials of any key advisers (up to three) who are responsible for counseling any technical challenges where the management team appears to lack relevant credentials. If you are governed by a board of directors, please list those directors by name and title.
In 250 words or less, explain your business model. A business model describes the rationale for how an organization creates, delivers, and captures value. How does your organization derive revenue from the sale of products or services? What expenses are incurred? Focus on a brief but clear explanation of your target market. Please include descriptions of key assumptions, such as how you meet consumer demand, set pricing, promote the adoption or diffusion of your technologies, and market your technical approach. This is your opportunity to make a clear and compelling statement about your larger strategy. So, it is essential that you link your explanations to evidence provided both in the project proposal (where relevant) and in other sections that require you to submit financial statements.
The following two sections require you to construct spreadsheets of financial statements. If you are unfamiliar with developing financial statements, we ask you to begin by learning the basic differences between them before proceeding (see Unlike some of the previous sections that require you to provide financial information for a specific project, these sections do not include a prescribed format. Instead, you will create and upload Excel files, and our judges will assess your submissions based on the content and how clearly you present the information. Therefore, please follow any specific instructions and accept our guidance for using standard formatting (see links to samples).

BALANCE SHEET (required)
Provide your balance sheet for 2012 through 2017, projecting the required information where necessary. Your balance sheet should include a detailed listing of your company’s assets, liabilities, and shareholders’ equity. You may report and project on an annual basis (versus monthly or quarterly). However, if you have the ability to project on a monthly or quarterly basis, you are welcome to include those details. Note that some investors prefer to see monthly figures for the first year and quarterly thereafter.

You may obtain a sample format for your balance sheet (for one year) at:

The file types that are allowed to be uploaded have an extension of .XLS, .XLSX or .PDF.
Please provide income statements for 2012 through 2017, projecting the required information where necessary. Your income statement should demonstrate how your organization derives revenues and incurs expenses through both operating and non-operating activities. You may report and project on an annual basis (versus monthly or quarterly). However, if you have the ability to project on a monthly or quarterly basis, you are welcome to include those details. Note that some investors prefer to see monthly figures for the first year and quarterly thereafter.

You may obtain a sample format for your income statement (for one year) at:

The file types that are allowed to be uploaded have an extension of .XLS, .XLSX or .PDF.
In 250 words or less, you may provide a short description of your company’s overall finances, highlighting significant increases/decreases in expenses or revenue, changes to the balance sheet, capital outlays, acquisition of assets, etc. This is your opportunity to describe anything that is not clearly detailed in your financial statements.
In 250 words or less, describe any risks to your business model. Risk is a critical determinant for an investor when deciding to fund a business. Provide an explanation that demonstrates your comprehension of the measurable risks associated with working in your target market. Explain how this risk has been quantified and integrated into your business model.
In 500 words or less, provide a narrative description of your growth strategy. This is an opportunity for you to build on the data presented in your financial statements. Explain the operations of your organization over time and highlight key milestones, such as the point at which the organization is at breakeven. You may also explain the increase in financial returns at scale. Describe the necessity of any capital investments to achieve scalability. Outline a detailed operational plan indicating the number of discrete projects or markets to achieve your financial goals.
D. VIDEO PITCH (recommended)

The National Geographic Society does not offer a venue for applicants to meet our judges in person. In order to provide the opportunity for making a personal connection, we recommend that you upload a short video to complement your application. This is an optional but recommended section.
Video submissions should follow these guidelines:

  • Be 30-90 seconds long.
  • One person (two maximum) should present him or herself during the video.
  • Focus on providing a personal presentation; it is not necessary to develop a sophisticated video.

Video submissions that do not follow these guidelines may be removed from the application.

Here are some logistical and technical suggestions:

  • Video cameras, digital cameras, and phones are easy ways to record a video.
  • Laptop and desktop computers can typically record video through Skype or other software.
  • If possible, set to a low resolution to reduce file size. This will enable an easier video uploading process.
  • If you are having difficulty uploading the video file, try logging out of the application and logging back in using another Internet browser.

Here are general suggestions for delivering a high-quality video pitch:

  • Include the following:
    • Introduce yourself and your organization.
    • What is your proposed service or product?
    • What is unique about your organization or technical approach?
  • Hone your content:
    • Keep your description and language simple.
    • Demonstrate passion through your words and enthusiasm.
  • Thoroughly prepare:
    • Practice numerous times and solicit feedback from colleagues, family, and friends.
    • Do not submit a video pitch if you see room for improvement.