Brian Lee, a PhD student in the Science, Technology, and Environmental Policy (STEP) cluster of the Princeton School of Public and International Affairs, was recently awarded the 2021-22 Best Student Publication Award in the College of Bioresources and Agriculture at National Taiwan University, where he completed his Masters work supported by a prestigious U.S. Fulbright Scholarship.
Lee’s paper, “Solar power promotion plans, energy market liberalization, and farmland prices – Empirical evidence from Taiwan,” was published in Energy Economics in May 2021. Lee was the lead author and co-authored the piece with his former advisor, Prof. Hung-Hao Chang, and a PhD Student in the department, Szu-Yung Wang. The article was nominated by three faculty members in Lee’s department, and was selected for the award based on the quality of the paper and caliber of the journal where it was published.
“The concept of solar farms – installing solar panels on farmland in addition to growing crops – is becoming increasingly popular around the world, especially as an idea for improving farm income and addressing renewable energy concerns,” Lee said regarding the motivation for his study. Taiwan provided a unique opportunity for a case study regarding the impact of solar farm designations on farmland prices, both before and after the government made changes to open renewable energy markets to private suppliers.
“Before we started the study, we thought we might see that farmland prices were positively affected by having the option to add solar production,” Lee said. “But we were surprised to find that Taiwan’s policies to allow solar development on farmland actually decreased farmland prices – primarily because the policies were structured in a way that only allowed very marginal farmland to be used, which had the effect of stigmatizing that land as unproductive.”
The paper provided the first empirical evaluation of solar power promotion plans on farmland prices before and after liberalization of the energy market in Taiwan and was able to identify causal effects of these policies.
Lee is a member of Prof. David Wilcove’s research group at the School of Public and International Affairs, and his research considers how environmental policy and conservation policy intersect. Lee utilizes methods from agricultural economics to answer questions related to biodiversity. He hopes to continue exploring how further changes to Taiwan’s solar farming policies may influence future development and renewable energy goals in the region.