Investigations of optical losses induced by localized plasmons in protrusions on silver back contacts of thin-film silicon solar cells are presented. The interaction of electromagnetic waves with nanoprotrusions on flat silver layers is simulated with a three-dimensional numerical solver of Maxwell's equations. Spatial absorption profiles and spatial electric field profiles as well as the absorption inside the protrusions are calculated. The results presented here show that the absorption of irradiated light at nanorough silver layers can be strongly enhanced by localized plasmonic resonances in Ag nanoprotrusions. Especially, localized plasmons in protrusions with a radius below 60 nm induce strong absorption, which can be several times the energy irradiated on the protrusion's cross section. The localized plasmonic resonances in single protrusions on Ag layers are observed to shift to longer wavelengths with increasing refractive index of the surrounding material. At wavelengths above 500 nm localized plasmonic resonances will increase the absorption of nanorough μc-Si:H/Ag interfaces. The localized plasmon induced absorption at nanorough ZnO/Ag interfaces lies at shorter wavelengths due to the lower refractive index of ZnO. For wavelengths above 500 nm, a high reflectivity of the silver back contacts is essential for the light-trapping of thin-film silicon solar cells. Localized-plasmon induced losses at silver back contacts can explain the experimentally observed increase of the solar cell performance when applying a ZnO/Ag back contact in comparison to a μc-Si:H/Ag back contact.© (2010) COPYRIGHT SPIE--The International Society for Optical Engineering. Downloading of the abstract is permitted for personal use only.