One company makes a 230 watt residential panel and it measures approx. 3.5' x 5'. Integration is a problem retrofitting traditional panels on a structure in terms of ascetics. The panels need a couple inches of airflow under them to keep them cool. Heat = less production for solar PV. If you have roof space that faces S/SW in your back or side yard, it's not a big problem, people typically just don't want to see them on the front of their homes.
You can buy "integrated" solar panels that blend into your roof and look like shiny tiles. These are the most ascetically pleasing, but least efficient and most expensive.
The bottom line is; How fast can I pay off my solar system with the money I will save from producing power with solar? The answer; Chinese panels, *traditional inverters, and only supplementing the high tier energy you purchase with solar. With this suggestion you can payoff your solar system with energy utility savings in around 5 years. Most inverters are waranteed for 10-15 years, and panels for 25 years. A typical return on investment on a solar PV system is as high as 20%+. In my area we pay on average 30 cents per kilowatt hour (all tiers averaged). I produce one kilowatt hour with solar for around 11 cents.
* Inverters convert the direct current electricity coming from the panels to AC. You will have an approx. 20% loss in the conversion from DC to AC. A traditional inverter will allow several panels to be wired into it in series. IE; 10 panels wired into 1 inverter. Micro inverters are newer technology. They mount under each panel, IE; 10 panels 10 small inverters. Micro inverters have their strengths but are more expensive.
My idea is to utilize up to 100 of the same solar panel, and integrate them into the design and architecture of the house from the very beginning so it looks like the panels were meant to be there- because they were! This would make for a ridiculously big house, so these panels would also integrate the look of everything on the property; one over the mailbox, covering the carport, several over a gazebo, more over the shop, the kid's playhouse, the lawn n garden equipment shed... and I wasn't kidding about one over the doghouse, lol. Build the house in layers with setbacks, like a cake, and place panels on every layer- the setback still allows for windows, decks and balconies and the panels make the house look futuristic.
Sell the excess power to the utility, and buy all electric appliances, from baseboard heaters to lawnmowers and home landscaping equipment and especially electric- or at least series hybrid- cars. The money saved on utilities is nice, but the money saved by not buying gasoline will amortize solar panels in a big hurry! They even have electric motorcyles on the market, and some of them in racing are already fast enough to give internal combustion bikes a serious run for the checkered flag. Imagine what they'll have in 20 years?
Heat the house w/ passive solar and power from the panels, cool it in summer with swamp coolers and water chillers, again powered by the panels. I would have a natural gas line into the property to run my gas grill, the stove and dryer- these need lots of heat, which is easier for gas to provide- and for the eventual possibility of residential fuel cells. Ballard Power Systems, Inc. already makes units that are designed for residential use, they just won't sell them in the states yet.
The future is here, it's time to step up your game.