Beijing, China [Worldwatch Institute] On March 26, 2006, the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) inaugurated the new International Center for the Promotion and Transfer of Solar Energy Technology, based in Lanzhou, the capital of China’s Northwest Gansu Province, reports Xinhua News Agency. The center will strengthen solar technology exchange and enhance international cooperation among developing countries through training programs and seminars.The initiative was first proposed at the International Solar Energy Symposium in Developing Countries in Lanzhou last October, organized by several UN agencies and the Chinese government. There, more than 120 participants from 23 Asian and African countries called for setting up such a center to promote R&D and technology transfer and to strengthen South-South cooperation in the solar energy arena. The project, which will expand on the existing Gansu Natural Energy Research Institute (also known as Asia-Pacific Solar Energy Research and Training Center), was signed off by UNIDO and the Chinese government in Vienna last December, according to Xinhua News Agency. Construction of new facilities will begin this spring and is expected to take two years, funded with an initial investment of US $300,000 from UNIDO. The Chinese government is also set to invest 150 million RMB (roughly $18.5 million) for acquisition of the land, infrastructure construction, and R&D endeavors, according to Gansu Economic Daily. As a pioneer in solar energy research in China, the center’s predecessor, the Gansu Natural Energy Research Institute, has developed more than 130 solar technologies during its nearly 30 years in existence. Harboring Asia’s largest pilot base for solar thermal and cooling technology, the world-renowned institute has trained more than 10,000 Chinese technicians and some 600 technicians and officials from 76 other countries in these technologies. China Watch columns, a joint initiative of the Worldwatch Institute and Beijing-based Global Environmental Institute, report on energy, agriculture, population, water, health, and the environment in China — with an emphasis on analysis relevant to policy makers, the business community, and non-governmental organizations.