A photovoltaic device comprised of an array of 20 nm wide, 32 nm pitch array of silicon nanowires is modeled as an optical material. The nanowire array (NWA) has characteristic device features that are deep in the subwavelength regime for light, which permits a number of simplifying approximations. Using photocurrent measurements as a probe of the absorptance, we show that the NWA optical properties can be accurately modeled with rigorous coupled-wave analysis. The densely structured NWAs behave as homogeneous birefringent materials into the ultraviolet with effective optical properties that are accurately modeled using the dielectric functions of bulk Si and SiO 2, coupled with a physical model for the NWA derived from ellipsometry and transmission electron microscopy. © 2010 American Chemical Society.