HydroBee wants to be your personal hydroelectric generator


November 19, 2013

The HydroBee generates electricity using the current of a stream or river

The HydroBee generates electricity using the current of a stream or river

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There are already plenty of gadgets that allow people to charge their mobile devices while off the grid. Most of those products utilize solar power, while a few have gone the thermoelectric route. The HydroBee, however, generates electricity using the power of flowing water – think of it as a portable hydroelectric station.

So, first of all, why bother? Well, solar-powered chargers may work fine in direct sunlight, but can be thwarted by heavy clouds, tree shadows, or even just high latitudes. They also don't do a whole lot at night. Thermoelectric chargers, on the other hand, require you to build and maintain a fire.

The HydroBee ... well, yes, it requires you to be close to a stream or river. If you are, though, it will work in even a weak current, regardless of the weather or time of day.

The device consists of two main parts.

At its heart is a cylindrical battery pack that contains six 1.2-volt NiMH rechargeable AA batteries, an integrated USB port, and an externally-mounted impeller. This pack can be used on its own, installed over the end of a faucet or hose. Whenever water comes out of that faucet and runs through the center of the pack, it causes the impeller to spin, generating power.

The battery pack is contained within the HydroBee's other main component, the stream body. This floats on the surface of a stream or river (or it can even be towed behind a boat), and is held in place by a line tied to a secure anchoring point. As water flows through the device, it spins a propeller. Once again, as with the spinning of the battery pack's impeller, this juices up the batteries.

According to HydroBee creator Burt Hamner, two hours spent in a current flowing at about 4 mph (6 km/h) should be enough to fully charge the six AAs. The battery pack can then be removed and used to charge a mobile device.

Hamner is now at the working prototype stage, and has turned to Kickstarter in order to raise production funds. A pledge of US$78 will get you the battery pack and stream body, when and if they're ready to go – the estimated retail price is $98.

Other portable hydroelectric generators do already exist, although most that we've seen are significantly larger than the HyroBee (which would itself be rather awkward to stuff into a backpack) and range in price between the hundreds and thousands of dollars.

More information is available in the pitch video below.

Source: Kickstarter

About the Author
Ben Coxworth An experienced freelance writer, videographer and television producer, Ben's interest in all forms of innovation is particularly fanatical when it comes to human-powered transportation, film-making gear, environmentally-friendly technologies and anything that's designed to go underwater. He lives in Edmonton, Alberta, where he spends a lot of time going over the handlebars of his mountain bike, hanging out in off-leash parks, and wishing the Pacific Ocean wasn't so far away. All articles by Ben Coxworth

Interesting way to handle power generation, not exactly water efficient if using a faucet; but in a power outage the water usually runs for most people. And all you'd need is a hydraulic turbine and you could even use this for generating power via wind, or even biking. Like the fact you can replace the batteries yourself when/if they go bad/use them yourself as AA's.

Charles Schley

Interesting but a bigger version/product that can provide power for a small home set up (some LED lights, a fridge, a laptop) would be really useful for developing countries.

Richard Guy

The ability to attach one of these to a bath / shower / sink drain pipe would result in power from waste water - amazing!


Why not use the water main running into the structure to generate electricity. The potential energy is already made available by raising the water to the water tower. It may impede flow somewhat, maybe not.

If I recall I saw a prototype of this somewhere.



PVs pump well water up to a water tower. At night the flow from the tower powers and provides water.

Don Duncan

To the earlier commentors: You can't get something for nothing. 746 watts= one horsepower, which equals 550 pounds of weight, falling one foot in one second. The amount of power from water pipes, drains, etc., even in the flowing stream, is no doubt like 2 watts per hour, if that. It's probably "milliwatts", which is why the video doesn't mention the measurements. Considering a "fridge" takes thousands of times that amount of power...!

You could run a charging station in Africa, by pouring five gallon pails of water into a funnel, through the generator/impeller, into a second bucket, which is then lifted, repeat. But, you'd get more power faster, sooner, by simply hand cranking a small generator. A treadle-powered device would cost less, and charge faster, and weigh less in a backpack than this 'gizmo'.

Scott in California

Here's something for all of you sailors out there.

Mick Martin

It could be used to charge the E-meth pipe as seen on Saturday night live. but I could see this as a handy item on a john boat to help charge, fish finders and lights... I like it !

Jay Finke

Two comments that I'm sure have already been thought of... 1) Why float the thing? That places part of the turbine out of the water and nonfunctional. Would it not be more efficient fully submerged? 2) I sail and would like to tow such a device to charge the deep cycle batteries that power the trolling motor I use as a "kicker". I now use solar panels, but I can't (or don't want to) fit enough of them on the boat. A larger version of the Hydrobee that runs power up the towline to the batteries would be great!


Would be great if you could plug your device directly into the line tethering the hydrobee in the water.

For instance so you could attach the hydrobee to a tree, drop it in the water, and then plug your device to the line tied to the tree using, say, a USB plug.


Hydrobee is back now and can also be attached to wheels, has a hand crank, and a light/lamp attachment!! Better then ever as you can see at

Kristin McNeely
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