The development of self-powered electronic devices is essential for emerging technologies such as wireless sensor networks, wearable electronics, and microrobotics. Of particular interest is the rapidly growing field of piezoelectric energy harvesting (PEH), in which mechanical strains are converted to electricity. Recently, PEH has been demonstrated by brushing an array of piezoelectric nanowires against a nanostructured surface. The piezoelectric nanobrush generator can be limited to sub-micron dimensions and thus allows for a vast reduction in the size of self-powered devices. Moreover, energy harvesting is controlled through contact between the nanowire tips and nanostructured surface, which broadens the design space to a wealth of innovations in tribology. Here we propose design criteria based on principles of contact mechanics, elastic rod theory, and continuum piezoelasticity.