RiverRun Hydrokinetic Power Module

Open source, 3D-printable, micro hydrokinetic generator module for powering small electronic devices

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Powering devices in remote locations is always a challenge. It usually involves either a battery pack that needs to be periodically replaced or a rechargeable battery in combination with a solar panel. While these solutions have their place, some scenarios require a different solution.

The RiverRun project aims develop an open source, 3D-printable, micro hydrokinetic generator to harness the kinetic power of flowing water. River, streams and canals are potential sources of energy for devices that function in or close to them. Water quality, environmental and wildlife monitoring or even just charging your smartphone on your next hiking trip are all possible use cases for this power source.


Batteries can run flat quickly in remote locations and where device space is limited. Solar panels need proper mounting locations and only work during the day with good sunlight. While running water is a obvious source of energy, there exist are no open source, low cost solution that can be adapted to the individual application’s requirements.


The aim is to develop an open source hydrokinetic generator that meets the following requirements:

  • Simple
  • Minimum part count
  • As many parts as possible should be 3D printable
  • All other parts should be commonly available
  • The design should be scalable and adaptable to different scenarios and power requirements


I have settled on a Savonius type turbine for this system for this project. Although it is normally used as a wind turbine, it also works well in water

The advantages of Savonius turbine are:

  • Simple design: A basic Savonius rotor consists of 2 “scoops” around a shaft
  • Sturdy: The design lends itself well to 3D printing and should be able to handle the moderate impact of debris floating downstream, better than any turbine design with thin individual blades
  • High torque: The Savonius rotor can still function in relatively slow flowing water, and it delivers relatively high torque
  • Scalable: The length and diameter of the rotor can easily be scaled up and down
  • Adaptable: It function both vertically and horizontally, fully or half submerged
  • Works in shallow water: With the shaft oriented horizontally the turbine can extract power from very shallow stream and canals

The main disadvantage of the Savonius rotor is that somewhat inefficient compared to other turbine designs, however the advantages mentioned above should make up for this.

The rotor wil be connector via a speed increasing gearing to a brushless generator. I have decided on a brushless generator (motor) because it will be more reliable for long term use because there are no brushes to wear out. Ideally a commonly available hobby RC brushless motor will be used.

The rotor will be mounted to a waterproof housing which will contain the gearbox and generator.

  • Rethinking Gearing

    Danie Conradie04/23/2018 at 00:44 0 comments

    For this turbine to actually be able to generate electrical power it will net a basic gearbox to increase the rotational speed. Although I originally envisage a large external gear mounted to the center of the rotor, I have since realized that integrating a large internal gear into the rotor itself might be a good solution.

    The small driven gear's (yellow) shaft will pass though the housing of the turbine  to the sealed enterior where the generator and accompanying electronics will be located. The gearing will be at least a two stage design. Waterproofing the of the interior compartment might prove, challenging especially around the gear shaft

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